Doctor Stephen Strange — an arrogant, egotistical, self-centered asshole. He cares about money and fame, and although he works to save lives as a neurosurgeon, it’s the glory of the case rather than the joy of saving lives that pushes Stephen through life. But when he loses the ability to use his hands properly, Stephen’s life changes forever.
Watching Doctor Strange’s car roll down the side of a cliff and seeing his hands crushed between metal and plastic interior of his rather expensive looking car is grizzly. Seeing the man laying in the hospital with his now deformed hands being held in place by all kinds of things, including I think what they say are 11 iron bars or something, that’s not something you’d wish upon anyone. But in a world where Stephen’s life is built around the ability to use his hands, this is beyond recovering from for him. Doctor Strange considers the loss of his hands functioning at 100% to be life ending.
Scouring modern medicine and draining himself of any remaining funds in his bank account, Doctor Strange ends up in Kathmandu where he discovers a possible way to heal himself, through means and magic that questions everything he’d ever believed.
With that introduction: the best news is that Doctor Strange is a lot better than any synopsis or those trailers would have you believe, trust me. As someone who wasn’t that interested; I didn’t think the trailers were all that interesting, and I was selling Strange off as a step back to Superhero origin movies that I was frankly quite sick of. Although yes, there is some of that here, it’s more than that.
The character arc of Strange and his development from selfish asshole to hero is the interesting plot of the movie. The main plot does suffer from typical Marvel tendencies, including the big one, the nonsensical villain.
Mads Mikkelsen does a great job as Kaecilius. A Master who betrays all at Kamar-Taj (the temple like place Strange travels to in Kathmandu), fights off the Ancient One, their leader, and gets off with a couple pieces of forbidden magic. All in the films opening before we are even introduced to Strange. What he wants to do with these pages and the ultimate reasoning for his portrayal is all very Marvel-like in explanation. It boils down to he’s a bad guy, though, and that’s all that matters, right? Not really. Luckily we do have Mads giving the character the personality and charm to be somewhat interesting.
The cast of Wizards– sorry, Sorcerers? The cast of Sorcerers surrounding Strange is great. The film features a rather small cast considering it’s scope in the multi-dimensions of time and infinity, but it’s definitely for the better.
Benedict Cumberbatch was fan-cast for his resemblance to the Marvel comic book character, but he does more than simply look the part. Even with my initial reactions to his American accent in the trailers being somewhat negative, in the film, it’s fine. I never heard him break and I never questioned it. Success. Cumberbatch brings a lot to the character of Strange though, portraying a character that goes through a surprising amount of emotional moments and plays to different tones. The rich asshole followed by the emotional wreck; then beggar asking for help, and eventually the confident sorcerer.
Then the cast of Sorcerers brings up a seeming school like cast around Cumberbatch. Chiwetel Ejiofor, the loving disciple; Benedict Wong, the stern teacher; Tilda Swinton, the all knowing Ancient One.
Everyone has great chemistry, and a really unexpected ability to pull off some really funny moments. One of my initial reactions to Doctor Strange was that wow, this film is a lot funnier than the marketing makes it out to be.
Rachel McAdams does appear a few times throughout the film, mainly at the start as Christine Palmer, Doctor Strange’s one-time love interest who works in the ER. She’s in it so little that it makes the change of The Ancients One’s sex — going from Male to Female — all the more important when you realize just how male dominated it would have been otherwise.
The Visual Effects work in Doctor Strange is really something special. In a movie about magical things and thinking outside the box, the effects team alongside Director Scott Derrickson and Writers Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill have taken the movie to another dimension.
Where all the talk may be about the ‘Inception’ like effects that happen with building and objects folding in on one another as people fight upon — and I will get back to that — I was actually most impressed with the smaller fight scene in the movie. It’s just Strange VS one of Kaecillius’s goonies, but the fight utilizes the world, the effects and everything we have been taught about so far and turns the fight into this really cool concept making it an absolute standout.
Big action set-pieces are going to be the films talked about moments though. They are legit WOW moments and that’s something that doesn’t come along often in the cinema anymore. It’s not just that it looks cool, it’s that its part of the world, it’s part of the lore. Watching Strange and co-running through a New York city that is being flipped upside down, on its head; buildings going inwards, and all sorts of unexplainable scenarios. That was like watching Neo run up the walls in The Matrix to me. I need more of this world and I need more scenes like this, they’re just too fun.
What makes Doctor Strange so good though and what makes it overcome the shortcomings of its typical bad-guy fodder and superhero origin story tropes, is that it introduces you to the world in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that you will be very interested in. Alone, even outside the MCU even, I would be very interested in the Doctor Strange lore and world and seek to know more about the mystical and multi-dimensional characters and elements that are introduced.