Doctor Strange is a visually stunning movie with enjoyable characters, but it also is a movie I feel like I’ve seen several times before, within the Marvel Universe. Now, I’m not certain if that is because most these characters have very similar themes in their origin stories to begin with, or if they are being adjusted for the movies because it is a story that works. But let’s start with the good, because I did enjoy the movie after all and I’m told that it’s sometimes difficult to tell when I do actually enjoy something.
And I really did enjoy Doctor Strange. There was no point in the movie where I felt like I wished the movie would just get on with it. My complaints with the movie stem from its use of standard origin story cliches that can be found in many origin stories, Marvel movies or otherwise. You should be warned that there will be spoilers ahead.
Visually, the movie was fantastic. I had made the decision to watch it in 3-D, and I’m glad I did. All of the magical fights were a joy to watch. Even though a lot was visually going on, I never felt like I got lost in the action. There was no point where I felt like I couldn’t follow what was happening, or was confused about just what the hell was going on. Sure, you have no knowledge of the magic in the beginning, but sometimes you just go with things, hoping that all will be revealed later in the movie.
I thought Benedict Cumberbatch was good as Doctor Stephen Strange. The charming arrogance was nicely portrayed, though I really have no basis on how Doctor Strange should portrayed. It would have been easy to for the character to veer off into pompous arrogance, a la Tony Stark, but he was able to walk that fine line between likable and unlikable.
Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One was fine. She works as a zen guru. I’ll get into her backstory a little later on. Rachel McAdams was fine as Christine Palmer, but it was a pretty generic, frustrated love interest character. Kind of like Pepper Potts. Or, very much like Pepper Potts. Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo was okay. I have no background with Mordo, but here, he’s the buddy. He’s the serious one, that tries to keep Strange focused. Think James Rhodes.
If it seems like I’m making a lot of comparisons Iron Man in this review, that’s because I was making these comparisons in my mind while watching this movie, and when thinking about it after leaving the theater. Here you have an arrogant rich guy that feels like he’s on top of the world. He’s involved in an incident that leaves him seriously injured. After getting injured, he meets an older person that helps him find a new purpose in life. He works at developing his new skill, and quickly masters it. And then, he overcomes the bad guy, who has the exact same skills as he does.
Which brings us to the villain. Kaecilius, played by Mads Mikkelsen, is not a very interesting villain. He was once a disciple of The Ancient One, but splintered off in his search for more power. Or immortal life, I guess. In the end, it seems like most of these villains’ motivations is just the search for power. I wished there was some other motivation. It’s alluded to that Kaecilius wanted revenge for something, but that needed to be expanded. A good villain helps the hero be a better hero. A generic villain just makes it feel like the hero is just going through the motions. There’s no real threat.
And speaking of threats, Dormammu came off at the end as a pretty weak threat. I mean, here is Doctor Strange, who has probably been training for less than a year, and he’s able to outsmart this all powerful being fairly easily. If it was this easy, you’d think someone else would have thought of it before. To me, it doesn’t make Doctor Strange better, and instead just makes everyone else seem weaker. Yes, Strange says he has a photographic memory and is shown flying through books in the library, but there’s no point in his training that it makes sense that he would be a more formidable of an opponent against the bad guys than any of the other masters.
There were two after credits scenes. The first includes Strange speaking with Thor, about helping him find Odin. This was definitely a set up for Thor: Ragnarok, and it disappointed me a little bit. Thor: The Dark World ended with Loki masquerading as Odin. I was really looking forward to seeing how that played out, and it now appears that they aren’t going to show any of that. The next had to deal with Mordo dealing with revelations that came from the end of the movie. It will likely be fairly important if they make another Doctor Strange movie.
And really, I hope they do. I did like the movie, and think that I would like a non-origin story more. I encourage you to go see this movie, and also see it in 3-D if you can afford to. I don’t normally recommend 3-D viewings, but I feel like the visuals in Doctor Strange make it worth the extra cost.