Let’s face it; this year has belonged to comic-book films. Benedict Cumberbatch’s take as the Sorcerer Supreme of the MCU marks the eighth superhero film to be released in theatres this year (Deadpool, Batman v Superman, Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse, Suicide Squad, The Killing Joke, and Return of the Caped Crusaders). The Sherlock, Trek-villain, Dragon of Middle Earth now plays a neurosurgeon named Stephen Strange as he battles the mystical forces to keep the world safe and lose the ego that only Tony Stark can have.
Marvel now has the greatest overall cast of heroes and villains to play with. Tilda Swinton (you can actually recognize her) plays the ‘Ancient One’, Chiwetel Ejiofor (Twelve Years a Slave) plays Mordo, and Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale, Hannibal) plays Kaecilius. Even Rachel McAdams (The Notebook) is there as Strange’s assistant and long-time companion Christine. Marvel has literally stolen most of Hollywood, and this film uses most of them justly.
After a car accident robs Strange of his steady-as-a-rock hands, his desperation sends him on a journey of discovery that drowns him in the mystic arts and puts him on the path of becoming a hidden hero rather than what the Avengers are; loud and social. After meeting the Ancient One, Strange immediately doubts magic exists, until the real star of the show rears its face; the visual effects.
Doctor Strange may be the most beautiful Marvel film to date due to how it warps reality and completely turns the film Inception (2010) into a minor feat of effects. Strange is convinced after his fly through the universe and decides to learn the mystic arts in order to gain the knowledge and expand his horizon of possibilities rather than merely fix his hands. Being trained by both the Ancient One and Mordo, Strange uses his photographic memory to learn the spells and understand the abilities caused by his skill to tap into the energy of the astral plane. Strange wasn’t the only pupil trained by the tag-team; Kaecilius taps into a dark dimension to get revenge on the Ancient One for lying to him and using unknown forces to give herself abilities beyond other’s imaginations.
The purpose of the film is to introduce magic into the MCU as Suicide Squad failed even though bringing in Enchantress and Katana, but this film completely succeeds in making magic great while having a hard time explaining it directly. Doctor Strange makes it seem like anyone can do magic if they do as Strange randomly did, while also studying for a long time in an ancient temple. It’s a great metaphor, but since Marvel has been a science-oriented universe, magic is a hard concept to simply insert. This film is a typical origin story that follows a film about all the heroes fighting each other; there was a lot going on before, and now there’s plenty more to deal with. As far as an origin story goes, this film is constantly moving which is benefited from quick conversations and a lot of action sequences or visual trips. The pacing and effects make this film, while its main villain (Mads) adds a little conflict (due to a lack of screen-time, although he’s great in each scene) and leads to what Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) did. A quick ending, with a bargain.
Doctor Strange is a typical superhero origin movie that benefits from introducing another layer to the MCU, while having great chemistry among its many characters and visuals for them to play with. Cumberbatch and Swinton steal the show and Chiwetel serves as a great mediator between the two while remaining a bit distant from his comic-book counterpart. This is the first Marvel film in a while to not solely rely on humor, but rather the bigger picture of the multi-verse and the possibilities that Marvel has yet to tinker with. There is some humor though, but its dryness gives the setting more reality and seriousness than most MCU films have been throwing at its audiences since the first Avengers film. For presenting audiences with a mystical conundrum, beautiful visual set-pieces, great characters, another step to Thanos stretching his legs, and a rushed ending, Doctor Strange deserves an 8.5 out of 10. It’s a good bargain that even Dormammu would accept.
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