When Marvel Studios launched its cinematic universe in 2008 with “Iron Man,” no one could have predicted the box office juggernaut it would become. Spanning nearly 20 films and TV series and earning over $10 billion at the box office, it seems Marvel can do no wrong.
But was “Doctor Strange,” the studio’s newest release, another victory for the franchise? Or has Marvel finally missed the mark?
“Doctor Strange” tells the story of former neurosurgeon Stephen Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Audiences follow Strange as he searches for a cure for his nerve-damaged hands. His hunt ultimately leads him to a sorcerer named The Ancient One, played by Tilda Swinton, who teaches Strange how to use magic. Strange must use his newfound abilities to protect the world from Kaecilius, a former student of the Ancient One who threatens to destroy the world.
Director Scott Derrickson, who directed “Sinister” and “Deliver Us From Evil,” proves he’s more than competent directing a Marvel superhero film. Although the plot doesn’t break new grounds for storytelling, “Doctor Strange” is consistently fun, and never has a dull moment.
“Doctor Strange” never loses focus on its characters. Derrickson carefully crafts his characters, and the cast’s strong performances make the film stand out. Audiences can clearly see that Cumberbatch was born to play Strange. He’s able to balance being arrogant and charming, creating a relatable character that’s fun to watch, and his transformation from self-absorbed neurosurgeon to powerful sorcerer is deeply satisfying.
The first act really showcases Cumberbatch’s talents as we observe Strange living through the aftermath of the car accident that damaged his hands. Seeing Strange’s desperation to find a cure is genuinely emotional. Chiwetel Ejiofor gives an equally great performance as Mordo, a fellow sorcerer aiding Strange in his training.His chemistry with Cumberbatch is palpable.
“Doctor Strange” is filled with action, and the stunning visual effects makes it one of the most creative films that Marvel has to offer. Since characters are able to use magic to bend reality at will, characters battle through rotating buildings and cityscapes. It’s as if you were watching a superhero showdown through a kaleidoscope. This is a film that was meant to be viewed on the big screen.
The film is also surprisingly humorous, and uses characters’ magical abilities for comedic effect. But Derrickson knows when to dial down the magical antics and never lets the humor compromise the more serious moments of the film.
However, “Doctor Strange” has its flaws; most notably, the movie’s villain, Kaecilius. While most of the characters are given time to be fleshed out, not much attention is given to his backstory. Despite a solid performance by Mads Mikkelsen, the character still seems underdeveloped.
Despite this shortcoming, “Doctor Strange” is a great addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and will please both Marvel fans and newcomers alike.