My Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Dr. Strange is one of the upcoming Marvel films I have been most looking forward to seeing for the last year or so. While I love the majority of the movies focused on the main cast from the Avengers movies, I find it fascinating to be introduced to new heroes that I am not as familiar with as Iron Man or Captain America. Like Ant Man and Guardians of the Galaxy, Dr. Strange doesn’t require any real knowledge of the other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which allows for different audiences to see the movie without feeling overwhelmed or lost. On top of this, Marvel does a great job of getting the audience up to speed on the Dr. Strange story without going overboard with exposition, which is extremely important for people like myself who have not read the original comics. Plus the incorporation of Benedict Cumberbatch into the Marvel ensemble is awesome, in my opinion.
Without going into too much detail, Dr. Strange is the story of the renowned neuroscientist, Dr. Stephen Strange, who is frankly a pompous narcissist that only entered the medical field to boost his own ego and fame. When Dr. Strange gets in a terrible car accident, the nerves in his hands are damaged beyond what modern medical science can repair and his life as a surgeon is destroyed. Unwilling to give up the life he had built, Strange embarks on a journey to Nepal to learn more about a revolutionary means of curing his nerve damage, which leads him to Kamar-Taj, a secret temple of sorcerers that have been tasked with protecting the world from extra-dimensional beings. As Strange comes to grips with the existence of these bizarre powers and realities, he is dragged into a battle against an old disciple of Kamar-Taj named Kaecilius, who wishes to achieve immortality by opening a portal to the “dark dimension.”
While there are many elements of Dr. Strange that are unique to this film and make it quite interesting and entertaining, there are also some elements that make it obviously a Marvel movie, in both good and bad ways. On the positive side, the film is a perfect example of Marvel’s ability to balance tension, drama, action, and humor in a way that blends all those elements and creates something enjoyable for audiences with diverse tastes. I’d say that this is one of the studio’s greatest assets and what sets them apart from DC, which seems to have trouble striking that balance and tends to churn out very dark and brooding films. On the other hand, Marvel rarely creates “bad guys” that are fully interesting and dynamic characters on their own (though Loki is an excellent exception). While Kaecilius is more fleshed out than some other Marvel villains, it would have been nice to spend a little more time getting to understand him and his motivations. I also would have been interested to learn more about the Ancient One as well.
Despite having some classic Marvel traits, Dr. Strange also breaks the mold in some ways that I found really interesting. For being one of the MCU’s most fantastical films, Dr. Strange was grounded in reality for a chunk of runtime. Unlike the many heroes who attain their powers through birth, accident, or experimentation, Dr. Strange goes to Kamar-Taj looking for an Eastern scientific cure to his injury after hearing about a paraplegic who was able to walk again after traveling there. Even after the abrupt tonal transition from realistic to fantastic, the focus remained on the characters more than the battles, which, for the record, were extremely exciting and loaded with mesmerizing special effects. Instead of being an outright battle between good and evil the entire way through, the plot explored the different outlooks on life held by the characters and how these outlooks shape their decisions. This allows us to get a better understanding not only of Dr. Strange, who manages to transition from someone stuck in a certain mindset to someone who can use his knowledge to adapt, but of the other sorcerers at Kamar-Taj. How the characters respond to their experiences change who they are for better and for worse. In the end, the final obstacle is overcome not with powerful magic attacks, but with ingenuity. This made the movie feel more realistic, in the sense that Dr. Strange could become as effective as he did in such a short time, and more relatable.
I cannot end the review before saying that Benedict Cumberbatch did an excellent job of becoming Dr. Strange. His American accent was excellent, even if a bit amusing. He is a superb actor that truly captures the personality and essence of the characters he portrays, which will make him a great new face in the upcoming Thor and Avengers films. Overall, I highly recommend seeing Dr. Strange if you are a fan of the MCU movies, or if you are interested in getting in the films but don’t want to watch a dozen of them to understand what is going on. Also, make sure to stay for the mid-credits and after-credits scenes, they are both well worth it.