Doctor Strange Review

Doctor Strange Review – A New Aspect of the Marvel Universe

Doctor Strange is an arrogant surgeon who finds himself drawn to the mystic arts after a car crash severely injures his hands making his job impossible. The latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe stars Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave, The Martian) and Tilda Swinton as Strange’s mentor The Ancient One. While Doctor Strange is visually impressive and widens the scope of the Marvel Cinematic Universe it fails to be as interesting as its predecessors or as neatly done.

The biggest and most immediate issue with Doctor Strange is that it is essentially the same plot as Iron Man. An arrogant man learns some humility after an injury, decides to join a cause more important than himself and becomes a hero in the process. Although there are clear thematic differences (Iron Man obviously didn’t wear a cloak and perform magic) the similarities are clear to see and Doctor Strange feels overly familiar, an issue Marvel needs to contend with in their almost limitless supply of origin stories. Benedict Cumberbatch brings his usual dose of charisma and arrogance to Stephen Strange in similar ways to other characters he has portrayed such as Sherlock Holmes but Strange isn’t a particular likeable character and like Tony Stark maintains an air of superiority but without Stark’s wit and humour.

Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange isn’t exactly the easiest colleague to work with.

There’s something to be said for the visuals of Doctor Strange which are mind bending and cool to see particularly when characters such as The Ancient One manipulate time or the different dimensions. Yes, Doctor Strange is visually similar to Inception and the journey to Nepal has more than a whiff of Batman Begins about it but that’s probably to be expected, given some of the similarities in the origin source material of Batman and Doctor Strange plus the fact that screenwriter for the film David S Goyer also worked on Batman Begins. This doesn’t necessarily hamper the film but does add to the sense of familiarity Doctor Strange can’t help but give off.

Doctor Strange

It will be interesting to see this new dimension (or dimensions) when it comes into passing with other characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and that element of the film is interesting at least. The story of the film is unfortunately bogged down in exposition and is pretty thinly written.The film’s finale is somewhat anti-climactic although it does try and do something a little different rather than providing a big monster to fight. Chiwetel Ejiofor is restricted to delivering a lot of the explanation to the audience of what’s happening and there’s a lot to get through including different dimensions, evil cosmic beings and immortality. Tilda Swinton is ethereal and all-knowing as the Ancient One and largely delivers what you’d expect. I wasn’t a fan of the film’s nod to the backlash surrounding her casting though which conveys the idea that the audience is somewhat judgemental when it comes to casting an older Asian actor for a mystical, immortal sorcerer but this doesn’t change the fact that they could just have easily cast a talented Asian actor staying closer to the source material. Although Swinton is fine in the role, it wasn’t imperative she be there.

Doctor Strange

Marvel were probably better off not acknowledging the backlash to Tilda Swinton’s casting in the film.

Marvel haven’t solved their weak villain problem in Doctor Strange either with Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius, a rogue sorcerer who wants to summon the evil cosmic being, Dormammu. Mikkelsen at least has some presence about him in the film but isn’t helped by weak writing. His motivation doesn’t really add up and it’s never satisfactorily explained why he believes Dormammu would grant him immortality rather than just killing him or why Kaecilius has managed to attract followers. This problem extends to other characters too who aren’t particularly compelling or interesting. Rachel McAdams is Strange’s frustrated colleague who inexplicably helps him out on numerous occasions even though he treats her poorly.

Doctor Strange‘s issues may partly stem from the fact this is the fourteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it’s all starting to blur together but the film’s larger problems stem from poor writing, too much exposition and a main character who when it comes down to it doesn’t have much depth to him. None of the other characters are interesting enough to take up the slack and Kaecilius is a poorly constructed villain. Overall, Doctor Strange is a fairly disappointing entry into the MCU.

What did you make of Doctor Strange? Let me know in the comments below.

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