Marvel is known for taking risks with Iron Man being one of the biggest. Iron Man kicked off an entire cinematic universe, a concept that back in 2008 was completely unheard of. Now, 13 movies later, Marvel’s latest Doctor Strange is their riskiest endeavor to date.
While magic was subtly introduced in Thor on Asgard, it was mostly explained through science. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has always been grounded in reality. Doctor Strange is an evolution for Marvel, visual effects, and the comic book genre. This is a universe complete with astral planes, mystic arts, and sanctums.
Doctor Strange is the origin story of Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a world famous neurosurgeon. His life is forever changed after a car accident takes away the use of his hands. Western medicine fails to have the cure that could return Strange to his career, as a result, he looks for healing in a mysterious enclave. Upon entering into this enclave, Strange encounters The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and learns that his place in the universe extends far beyond the corners of Earth.
Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game, 12 Years A Slave) is an Oscar-nominated actor, who is known for fully embodying the characters he plays. Dr. Stephen Strange is no exception. Cumberbatch takes the character on a transformative arch, from being a selfish arrogant professional to someone who surrenders themselves to a greater cause and believes in the magic that surrounds him. Audiences have to believe in Strange’s transformation, without that buy-in, the storyline doesn’t move forward and loses stakes.
Much controversy has surrounded the casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One. Swinton is memorizing as The Ancient One. She brings a sense of lightness, humor, and depth to this complex role. It’s through her eyes that we see the evolution of Strange and start to understand how this mystical world works. Swinton is one of the most amazing women in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Chiwetel Ejiofor (Mordo), Benedict Wong (Wong) and Rachel McAdams (Christine Palmer) round out the supporting cast. While their characters aren’t developed as much as, The Ancient One or Strange, they complete the complex story.
Director Scott Derrickson had the challenge of introducing a brand new character into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he had to make magic believable, take complex comic book lore and translate it in a way that audiences would understand and finally, orchestrate visual effects unlike anything seen before on screen.
While this is a game changer for Marvel with storytelling and mystical elements, the visual effects elevate this film to another level. As our characters are moved through different astral planes, the visual effects move far beyond what is seen normally in 2016. Inception move aside, Doctor Strange is pushing boundaries and utilizing the 3D medium unlike any film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is a movie that needs to be experienced in a large-format theater and preferably in 3D. Derrickson wasn’t afraid to go bold with his set pieces and push limits of what audiences are used to with visual effects.
While the movie hits on almost every level, the villain falls short. Mads Mikkelsen plays Kaecilius and while his fight scenes are brilliant (especially one which takes place completely in reserve), his threat is never truly felt. Marvel’s best villain, Loki, connected with audiences, Kaecilius feels like an obstacle in the way for Strange to overcome.
Doctor Strange will open up worlds for Marvel and proves once again that the comic book genre isn’t saturated, it can be transformative. Take a chance on this story and suspend disbelief. Marvel asks us to believe in the possibility of magic and seeing is beliving.
An in-depth-spoiler review will be posted in the coming days.
Dr. Stephen Strange’s life changes after a car accident robs him of the use of his hands. When traditional medicine fails him, he looks for healing, and hope, in a mysterious enclave. He quickly learns that the enclave is at the front line of a battle against unseen dark forces bent on destroying reality. Before long, Strange is forced to choose between his life of fortune and status or leave it all behind to defend the world as the most powerful sorcerer in existence.
Doctor Strange releases in U.S. theaters Friday, November 4th.