We live in a golden age of comic book dramatizations. Certainly, not every movie, broadcast, or streaming comic-book related enterprise is worth your time. But we live in an age where there is an unbelievable number of choices. The latest production from Marvel is the MCU’s “Doctor Strange”. Is this film worth your time and money?
Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is an egotistical and somewhat abrasive neurosurgeon living in NYC. He’s certainly good at his job and loves what he does. But because of his enormous ego, he can’t help but rub people the wrong way, including, on occasion, his friend and colleague, Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). One evening, while using his cell phone and driving at the same time, he gets into a very serious accident. It’s a miracle that he does not die, but that’s little consolation to him since his hands are damaged to the extent that there is little hope that he could ever practice surgery again.Still, grasping at straws, he seeks out experimental procedure after procedure, talking to medical pioneers and experts, spending his prodigious wealth seeking something that will allow him the steady hands he needs to once again operate.
Still, grasping at straws, he seeks out experimental procedure after procedure, talking to medical pioneers and experts, spending his prodigious wealth seeking something that will allow him the steady hands he needs to once again operate. His search eventually leads him to a group of people, lead by a woman known as “The Ancient One” (Tilda Swinton). Among this group is also Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and a somber librarian known only as Wong (Benedict Wong). Together, they train Dr. Strange in the mystic arts, something which he apparently has an incredible talent for. During his training, he discovers the actual purpose of this group — to defend the Earth and its entire plane of existence from threats from other dimensions. And like it or not, Dr. Strange is drawn into a deadly conflict between the Ancient One’s people, and a former student of hers, Kaecillius (Mads Mikkelsen).
“Doctor Strange” is an origin story about an egotistical man and his journey to becoming a hero. We’ve certainly seen things like this before (most notably, Tony Stark/Iron Man). But this is an introduction to the magical side of the Marvel universe. God-like Thor and his trouble-making half-brother Loki has been explained as advanced science. Scarlett Witch’s abilities have never quite been explained. But here we have pure magic and mysticism, with the Marvel flavor to it. And I have to say that it’s handled very well, in that it’s easy to accept what we see on the screen, as being possible, within the context of a Marvel fantasy film. The special effects and cinematography are all very well done, and Doctor Strange is a beautiful film to watch.
The cast is phenomenal. The only problem I have is that Benedict Cumberbatch’s American accent does not sound authentic (I don’t know what kind of accent he was trying to do, but I’m from New York, and I don’t know of any accent, from NY or otherwise, that sounds like it). And that is my biggest problem — I would have rather they simply made Dr. Strange British. But ok, they didn’t. I have no problems with his acting — it’s just his accent that kind of grated on me.
I liked the rest of the cast better. Chiwetel Ejiofor is exceptional as Mordo, as is Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One. Mads Mikkelson plays the enigmatic Kaecillius as someone who is a true believer in his actions, that what he does is for the benefit of mankind, even if he has to kill to achieve his goals. It gives him an extra layer of depth, which works. But really, as with many Marvel villains, there’s not a lot there. We know that Kaecillius has a history with The Ancient One and Mordo and Wong, but we don’t know many of the details. So like with many previous MCU villains, we don’t know a lot about him. But we know enough. I do think that he is still, one of the better MCU villains.
Overall, I really enjoyed Doctor Strange. I didn’t find the film to be ground-breaking. As I said, it’s visually stunning. But it isn’t as good as the best of the MCU. I’d rank it around the middle of the pack. If you’re a fan of the rest of the MCU, I definitely recommend it. It’s not among the best of them, but it’s a fun and entertaining way to spend a couple of hours. I also must mention that if you go see it, to stay until the very end — there is both a mid-credit and end-credit scene, and both are well-worth the wait.