Forget everything you know and delve into the multiverse with Marvel’s Doctor Strange.
Like many of Marvel Studios’ earlier films (Iron Man and Captain America comes to mind) Doctor Strange is an origins story, which depicts the evolution of Doctor Stephen Strange from the arrogant, egotistical and renowned neurological surgeon, to the fairly tolerable, slightly more humble and open to all possibilities practitioner of the mystical arts.
Marvel Studios has certainly stepped up their game since Avengers: Age of Ultron and are clearly gearing up toward the ultimate Marvel Cinematic experience with Avengers: Infinity War. A major instance depicting Marvel’s transition into this new phase of epic cinema can be seen at the very beginning of the Doctor Strange film, in which Marvel’s traditional opening credits has been replaced with dynamic visuals, 3D graphics, and exhilarating action sequences starring each of the Avengers. As an old school Marvel fan, I personally prefer the old credits. However, to each their own.
Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is an unlikable character at the outset of the film. Arrogant, snobby and too much of a Tony Stark clone personality wise, Strange did not appeal to me at all. His inability to look beyond himself and his own little world is a trait that needed to be snuffed out. Even after a life altering accident forces him to rethink his priorities and reinvent his life, Strange continues his egotistical path leading him to Kathmandu and to the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton).
Whilst Strange is unlikable at first, his desperate need to become whole again and his sheer determination to do whatever it takes to regain the use of his hands shows us his humility and his capability to change for the better. Progressively throughout the film, we see his transcendence toward spiritual enlightenment, illustrating to us his inner heroism. There is, without a doubt, no one else better suited to play Strange than Benedict Cumberbatch. The British actor not only looks the part and portrays Strange’s evolution well, but also modernises the character with brilliant humour and present day references, which engages audiences.
While Strange is the titular and main character of the film, the supporting cast are also worth mentioning. Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One is an exceptional teacher and a master of sorcery. Swinton, though not at all ‘ancient’ in looks, portrays the character superbly, as a symbol of good but yet oddly mysterious as well. There’s a lot more to the character than meets the eye.
Strange’s sidekicks, Wong (Benedict Wong) and Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), both help drive the film forward in their own way, with Mordo being the righteous master who’s set in his inflexible beliefs and Wong surprisingly, providing comedic relief.
Of course, no superhero film is without a good villain and Mads Mikkelsen’s Kaecilius is a brilliant first baddie for Strange. While it may be disappointing to some that the villain of the film isn’t as evil as he could and probably should be, Kaecilius paves the way for Strange’s training wheels to be removed, so to speak, and provides Strange the chance to truly grasp the magnitude of power he has been blessed with. For a villain in an origins story, Kaecilius was superb, especially with his mastery and prowess of magic.
Interestingly, romance didn’t play a big part of the film, with only subtle hints showing the love and caring bond Strange has with Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). The more evident relationship they share is much like that of Tony Stark and Pepper Potts in that Strange turns to Palmer when he needs a healthy dose of reality and when he needs ‘saving’, much like Stark does with Potts.
Visually, Doctor Strange is by far the most stunning Marvel film to date, with incredible graphics showcasing astral planes, mirror worlds, magical powers and the multiple dimensions in existence. One of my favourite scenes is the fight scene in the astral plane, with the spirits of Strange and the baddies engaging in combat rather than their actual physical bodies. The vast amounts of colour certainly stimulates the mind and would definitely appeal to art enthusiasts. The Inception-like effects, particularly the chase scenes around the city of New York will have you either applauding or feeling slightly nauseous. I would recommend blinking during these scenes. It is mind-blowing to think just how far cinema has come to create such detailed illusions on screen.
The graphics and visuals used in the film are certainly a highlight but so too are the costumes and designs used in the film. For a film based on comic book fiction, Doctor Strange’s reality is believable and appears to be one which, perhaps, could very well exist in our own world. The character outfits were the perfect blend of subtle and abnormal, in my opinion anyway. Once again colours played a big part in providing costumes that were marvelously appealing.
No Marvel film is without its epic soundtrack and Doctor Strange was no different. The music and soundtrack enhanced the enjoyment of the film for me. In essence, the soundtrack guided viewers’ enjoyment of the film, providing sensory satisfaction that allows for empathy and understanding of Strange’s plight as well as the thrill of watching him rise to the occasion of becoming a Marvel hero.
The final battle, unlike most Marvel films, is unique and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. It is this moment that truly sets Strange on his path toward being the protector of the world from otherworldly threats.
Marvel Studios has certainly stepped up their game with Doctor Strange and instills excitement about the future. A film that ultimately teases newer, darker, villains and associations with other heroes, Doctor Strange is a must watch for any comic book fan, especially those who look forward to Avengers: Infinity War.
As with all Marvel films, make sure to stay for both end credit scenes. These will certainly get you excited for what’s to come next.