» Blog Archive Review: Doctor Strange Brings The Arcane To The MCU -

doctor-strange-2By now, Marvel Studios films are known to generate a success. Even as other superhero movies attempt to find their own footing or fail spectacularly, it’s a sure-fire bet that when “Marvel Studios” is attached to a movie, you’re going to get your money’s worth. Enter Doctor Strange, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s biggest leap forward since Guardians of the Galaxy, and arguably what may be considered their “weirdest.” It’s with the introduction of magic, the multiverse, and so much more than the MCU grows in ways that it has not before, and as such it adds layers to the ever-growing film universe.

For those unaware of the source material, Doctor Strange follows Stephen Strange, your typical arrogant neurosurgeon as he suffers major damage to his hands. After numerous attempts are recovering his former skills, his lust for recovery brings him to Nepal where he discovers that magic is running vibrantly through his world and so many others. As you can expect, things go wrong and the genius Strange must do battle with dark forces on a massive scale he is only just introduced to.

doctor-strange-1Strange himself is played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who comes to embody the character entirely. While I was initially concerned with Cumberbatch playing such a pivotal Marvel character, his performance definitely brings the character to life in ways like Chris Evans did for Captain America, or even Jeremy Renner for Hawkeye. Having Cumberbatch attached to the character gives him more life than his comic counterpart may entail. While Strange himself is given bits of humor to make him likable, it’s ultimately his familiar yet highly mystical, character-driven journey he embarks upon that humanizes him.

That sense of familiarity and humor, however, end up being the film’s biggest flaws. Often times, it’s evident that Marvel is still sticking to the Iron Man origin-formula, and that’s being applied here as well. Strange’s arrogance fades as the film goes on, but instead of being the quip-driven character Tony Stark is, Strange is more driven by his desire for knowledge and saving the world with bits of humor thrown in. Those moments of humor, not just from Strange but the majority of the cast, are what become the film’s second flaw, in which serious moments that are pivotal to the film are bogged down by unnecessary jokes. At times they are welcome to lighten the mood, but off the top of my head there’s two that were just unnecessary and undermined the drama that came right before it, leading up to it.

Marvel's DOCTOR STRANGE..Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen)..Photo Credit: Film Frame ..©2016 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

While the flaws are prevalent, they don’t detract from what makes the movie set itself apart from the other MCU films, as well as make it feel more independent and within its own sandbox. The spells and the effects they leave don’t just dazzle but oftentimes warp your own perception of not just how magic works but reality itself is structured. Unlike Harry Potter where magic is used like a projectile, Doctor Strange features reality warping into hallucinogenic-like sequences, as well as unexpected twists and turns with each and every introduction of new devices and techniques Strange the sorcerers around him can use.

One sequence, in particular, makes 3D worth the treat, but IMAX would be cautioned as it is very strenuous on the eyes for two hours. The sequence in question, where Strange and Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) are engaged with the film’s antagonist, Kaecilius, (Mads Mikkelsen) and his henchmen. Reality is warped, the streets and buildings of New York are twisted in ways you wouldn’t even think of, and the sequence never ceases to keep outdoing itself. If anything, Doctor Strange is the most visually complicated and appealing Marvel film to date, which will undoubtedly be compared to the likes of Inception.

doctor-strange-4The story and characters itself may fit the Marvel formula, but they are all highly enjoyable throughout. Mordo is likable and pushes Strange to become stronger, as well as gives him the shoves necessary to ascend to the character he is destined to become. Along with him is The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and Wong (Benedict Wong) who continuously offer Strange guidance throughout the film, the latter of which offers some of the best laughs the film has to offer. Rachel McAdams plays Christine Palmer, who acts as a voice of reason for Strange, and even though her character is not in the film nearly as much as her billing would have you believe, her character is likable and handled where she is clearly pivotal to the plot; as a whole, her character avoids the pitfalls that are attached to characters like Jane Foster in the Thor films. Even Kaecilius manages to come across as one of the stronger Marvel villains that the MCU has to offer. Thankfully, this isn’t another Malekith or Whiplash scenario, as the threat he poses is undoubtedly one to be feared and easy to understand, as well.

Seeing as Kaecilius is so pivotal to the plot, it’s worth noting that it’s amazing just how much information is within the film, but it never manages to feel overstuffed. There’s spells, dimensions, sources of power, and so much more to discover in Doctor Strange, but coupled with an evenly and cleanly structured plot and a modest dose of information at given times, the film manages to avoid losing the viewer by what’s being conveyed, no matter how weird it gets. While it certainly does get weird within the film’s nearly two hour runtime, it never goes completely overboard with it to alienate viewers.

doctor-strange-5Doctor Strange was a long time coming, but it clearly has been a wait well worth it. The film, while sticking to the Marvel origin formula and interjecting one-too-many jokes, is the doorway to another many levels of the MCU, and opens up several opportunities post-Phase 3. Doctor Strange is clearly a character that Marvel has sought to include, and their patience has clearly paid off. Doctor Strange will surely make fans of the character happy, but also make everyone curious as to what the MCU is going to throw out there now, given how much just Strange as a character is capable of by himself. If anything, Doctor Strange makes me more curious in what the MCU isn’t capable at this point.

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