So usually, when I write one of these reviews, I take a moment to opine and give a little one shot summary of what my thoughts are. Well, I just got back from seeing Doctor Strange and it’s taking a little while to unbend my mind, so you’ll forgive me if I forgo the usual formula. Let’s just get into the story:
Dr. Stephen Strange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch because really, I can’t think of anyone else who would have worked in this role) is one of the best surgeons on the planet, and boy, does he know it. The man is a walking ego factory and he can get away with it because he is really that good. But then, as he’s going to a medical banquet/lecture thing, he gets into a car accident that wrecks not only his car, but shatters his hands and his career. He tries everything he can think of to try to regain the use of his hands. After all, if he’s not a surgeon, then what is he? He runs through all the options that Western medicine can offer him and that’s when he learns of a possible fix: a group of mystics in a place called…well, I forget. And Google isn’t helping right now.
Anyway, Strange goes to this place in Nepal where he meets The Ancient One (played by Tilda Swinton) and Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor). When he catches a glimpse of what he could learn, Strange jumps at the chance to be trained as a sorcerer. Only it’s maybe not the best choice. A former student of The Ancient One named Kaecilius has stolen a powerful spell and wants to use it to unleash a horrific evil upon the earth. So Dr. Strange has to master his powers and rally his forces to try and stop Kaecilius and his zealots.
Once again, Marvel has created something magical here (pun kind of intended). I’ll admit, I know very little about Dr. Strange’s exploits in the comics. I mean, I’ve seen him in a few cartoons, and I’ve also seen Neil Gaiman’s take on him in Marvel 1602, but that’s about it. Oh, sure, there’s a lot of ways you can get caught up on the doctor’s adventures (here’s one!), but as far as the mythos and so on, I was kind of going into this one blind. I had an enjoyable time at this movie, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s perfect.
Let’s talk about the only real criticism I have first: in my mind, this was a little too much of a kung fu movie with a heavy dose of magic slathered over the top of it. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the way that Kaecilius and his cronies conjured magical blades and used them. And The Ancient One’s defensive spells were a fun visual too. But these are wizards, for crying out loud! At times, the combat in this movie looked like something you would expect to see in the upcoming Iron Fist Netflix show. You would think that the combat wouldn’t be quite so physical and be a bit more arcane or mystical. I’m not saying I want them holding wands and shouting “Expelliarmus!” at each other, but this movie broke a mold on the typical superhero flick that ditching the physical fighting might not have been such a bad thing.
But aside from that, there’s a lot that this movie has going for it. The visuals. Oh, man! The visuals. If you can, go see this one in IMAX 3D. Totally worth it. We’ve only caught glimpses of Strange’s journey through the Marvel multiverse in the commercials and trailers, but to see them on the big screen, wow. And while I just griped about the physical nature of the fights, they at least utilized the magical aspects of the story to make those visually interesting as well.
Then there’s the final action sequence. I won’t say why it was so breathtaking, but whoever thought of that whole scene should get a bonus or something. Just very imaginative and worth the price of admission alone.
And here’s a fun little thing: the way that Strange solves the problem. It was a clever little ruse and totally worked for the character. There was no need for more magical martial arts. I chuckled and then laughed out loud when I realized what he was up to. Very, very cool.
And the humor! While this one has a slightly…I don’t want to say “darker,” because that’s not the right word. Somber? I’ll have to think on that. Anyway, the movie didn’t start out as quippy as some of the other Marvel outings, but there were still plenty of lighter moments that kept the movie from drowning in the esoteric.
And here’s something that I noticed because of the whole writing thing: I was impressed with the way the writers were able to lace in all of the information we’d need for the final climax without dumping it all into our lap. It felt a lot more organic than it could have been.
Oh, and here’s another thing: I think they did a pretty decent job of setting up a sequel. I can see where the story is going, and it’ll be interesting to see how it develops.
So is this movie perfect? Not entirely. I definitely enjoyed it and it does move the ball down the field (although the final twist reveal about one of the mystical objects? Yeah, everyone saw that coming). I can’t wait to see how the good doctor interacts with the rest of the MCU. The Infinity War can’t get here fast enough.