Doctor Strange Review

Jacob D.

Jacob D., Writer

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     “You wonder what I see in your future? Possibility.” This isn’t just a word of wisdom by the Ancient One, it is what the audience will think after seeing Doctor Strange shine in his solo movie and realizing the potential this character possesses for the future of Marvel movies.

     Created in 1963 by Steve Ditko, Doctor Strange has been giving comic book fans everywhere a look at the very odd, but colorful world or worlds of his mythos, and he will now finally jump from cult classic to icon. After an unsuccessful TV movie in the 70’s, Doctor Strange reality warps his way into cinemas everywhere with not just the best Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film yet, but one of the best Marvel Movies period.

     The film channels Stephen Strange, the completely jerky, but talented neurosurgeon who breaks his hands in a car accident and travels to Kathmandu to seek healing for his hands. He finds help through the likes of the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who help him heal by practicing the mystic arts of sorcery. Through the help of the very serious Wong (Benedict Wong), the Eye of Agamotto, and the Cloak of Levitation, he must protect the world from a rogue accomplice of the Ancient One, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) and his group of Zealots from destroying the world.

 

doctor-strange-reviewJacob D.

Spoilers from this moment on

     The beginning of the film foreshadows from the get go about how different this film will be from previous MCU films, by showing us a true act of villainy and motive for its villain Kaecilius, which helps build a strong foundation of backstory for the story and it’s villain. For MCU fans, that’s good news, as it has been criticized that the MCU has one-dimensional baddies with no clear motives. It showcased how evil Kaecilius was and begun the understanding behind his motives, as he beheaded a student learning the mystic arts for a sacred and dangerous ritual. Also, also at the beginning of the film, we see one of many kaleidoscope scenes that are visually dazzling and beautiful, yet trippy and crazy. Both brought a great fight sequence between the Ancient One and Kaecilius and his Zealots and mind-bending special effects all in one sequence. Yet that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how well the action sequences and kaleidoscope scenes work and blend so well together.

     Because this is an origin story, we are introduced to Stephen Strange and his backstory and while his story is a similar to that of Tony Stark (Their comic book characters have a similar personality and journey to humility), the backstory is shown under the mature light and introduces us to a more complex character. As much of the beginning is introducing us to him and the supporting characters, it’s not dragging on and it only makes the characters involved in the beginning shine more. Such as showing the many feats made by Doctor Strange as a neurosurgeon and his complicated relationships with former lover/colleague Christine Palmer (Rachel Mcadams) and fellow rival neurosurgeon Nicodemus West (Michael Stuhlberg).

     A really interesting element that is in the film that director Scott Derrickson included was a horror movie element. As at some parts it had the audience, especially me included,  jumping from our seats from loud noises coming from fallen objects, little jump scares, and horror film screams provided by Christine Palmer.

     From then on the film maintains very well with a great plot, twists and turns at every corner (literally), and a pretty serious tone, making it much more mature than most MCU films, but keeps the humor we all love from Marvel Studios. All the way to the first half of the film we see Stephen Strange grows from an arrogant man in New York to a man seeking humility in Kathmandu. The film only gets more excited by bringing in humor, that is actually really smart, with some of the smartest uses of humor in a Marvel film yet, as it is not overused or does not take out the gravity of conflicts, such as Strange’s constant banter with Wong and his love for Beyonce. We also see the growing relationship with both the Ancient One and Mordo, Mordo’s relationship, however, is what was really interesting. In the comics, Mordo was the main villain of Doctor Strange that grew from jealousy of Strange, but now we see Mordo becoming an ally to Strange and they form a tight bond as they have so far fought, trained, and bonded together. This created a really cool form of teamwork and  brotherly relationship that is reminiscent of Thor and Loki in the first Thor movie. The Ancient One, however, is given a very interesting relationship that connects to a sorcerer in the film, this, however, is probably the most surprising character I have ever seen in cinema, as the Ancient One holds the secret of using dark magic to live forever, that rocks the world of everyone.

When it comes to the climax, everything comes full circle. We see this part of the film carrying the most emotional pull, with Strange being put in the most danger. This creates a worried Palmer, who sees him before the battle and treats it like it could be the last encounter the two would have. We also see a death of the Ancient One at the hands of villains, which only makes the conflict that much more personal. This only provided a bigger drive for Doctor Strange to fight Kaecilius and save the world, yet during the final battle, we learn that Kaecilius is a minion of a way bigger villain, Dormammu. It is at this point in the battle we receive some humor as Doctor Strange confronts Dormammu with infinite death, but the humor really makes the conflict a little different, which is what this film strides in. Since there was no giant battle, it was pure and simple outthinking, something you do not see much of in many big films these days. He makes a bargain to stop the infinite loop of infinite death, in exchange for Dormammu to take the souls of Kaecilius and his Zealots and to leave Earth. The battle ends with our heroes victorious, yet Dormammu still lurks, and Mordo turning evil due to his radical idea of their being too many sorcerers in the world. While this is a setup for a sequel, it doesn’t feel forced but flows well with the film’s story. The film leaves Strange with the position of Sorcerer Supreme and the protector of the Sanctum Sanctorum in New York, closing off the film simple and sweet.

Like all Marvel movies, you must stay till after the credits. Doctor Strange, in particular, has two, with one connecting Doctor Strange to the rest of the MCU and one teasing a sequel. The mid-credits scene is a scene where Doctor Strange is talking to Thor (Chris Hemsworth) with a refillable glass of beer. This scene left me and the audience around me in stitches, as the two have playful banter amongst each other, as Thor asks Strange to help him find his father Odin. But Scott Derrickson didn’t direct this scene, however, Thor Ragnarok director Taika Waititi did and put in his brand of humor on it, which was really obvious since the scene had his uniquely hilarious sense of humor, which I loved. This also teases Doctor Strange’s involvement in Thor Ragnarok coming next year, which is good to know since we will be seeing more of  Doctor Strange. The after-credits scene, however, was much darker and was actually directed by the film’s director and it shows an evil Mordo finding Jonathan Pangborn (Benjamin Bratt) who was healed previously by the Ancient One. The two previously knew each other from the past and now Mordo took out the spirit of the previously paraplegic Pangborn, which cripples him once more and leaves and says that “There are too many sorcerers in the world.” This makes me really excited to see Mordo as a villain, as he ruthlessly crippled a man, and now looks to limit the amount of sorcerers in the world, since he believed that there are too many sorcerers in the world. The post-credits scene is one of the best post-credits scenes in any Marvel movie in years, and shows that Marvel is really putting in one could potentially become the best MCU villains in the future.

Doctor Strange carefully crafts complex characters that make the film really feel emotional and well-done, and the performances of the actors were outstanding and made the characters theirs. Starting off with Doctor Strange, Benedict Cumberbatch makes this character his own, much in the vein of Tony Stark and Robert Downey Jr with charm, humor, character, and personality. He nails the accent and arrogance of the character making him even more real and faithful to the source material. Mordo, on the other hand, is a reinvention of the character, as Chiwetel Ejiofor makes the character be more three-dimensional, with a strong performance worthy of standing next to Cumberbatch’s Strange. But one thing that sets Chiwetel Ejiofor’s portrayal of Mordo apart is that he is an ally and comrade, not just a side character that follows, he leads and has a strong arc where Mordo, in the end, gains the motive to be evil, not given from the get-go.

The Ancient One was in particular a controversial character as soon as Swinton was announced to play the character, but once people see the film, they will completely understand why Tilda Swinton is cast as the Ancient One. Tilda Swinton just like Benedict Cumberbatch really embodies the character by making it her own, as she captures the smart and ancient aspects of the character really well. Especially when we see her mentor Strange and her fight sequences, her performance really feels natural and doesn’t seem odd in a bad way.

Christine Palmer, played by Rachel Mcadams is more than just a love interest for Doctor Strange, as she has an important purpose in the film, being both Doctor Strange’s assistant and is really his motivation to proceed with helping the world. Her role however is similar to Pepper Potts, but for this film it feels appropriate as both are what drive the hero when their at their worst and strong enough to stand out. She has many good scenes that flesh out the character, but her complicated relationship with Strange is what’s really unique about their bond. As they use to be lovers and they work together, but now they don’t even know what they are together. Thus making Christine Palmer, a character that not only has a key role, but has a role that is three-dimensional.

     Kaecilius, played by Mads Mikkelsen is not exactly a villain but is a man trying to do good using radical ideas. Kaecilius in the comics was a Z-list villain who was a minion of an evil Mordo, but in the film, he is so much more. He is a villain who leads a group called the Zealots to destroy the world by summoning the dark lord Dormammu to bring his idea of a perfect world of immortality. This makes him one of the best Marvel villains in years, he is ruthless and pretty funny, but not in an obnoxious way. He stands out from most villains from the MCU, who like I said earlier are criticized for their lack of motives, but luckily we have a memorable villain who is a real challenge for our hero and is likable. Mads Mikkelsen’s performance brings something new to the Marvel movie table with his strong acting and physical performance, which is something that I liked so much, especially with a film with so many talented actors and actresses. Overall, Mads Mikkelsen’s performance of Kaecilius transcends the film with his charm and wit, that really pushes the character to new heights and is a worthy adversary to Strange.

This is the best solo film since Iron Man that captures the magic of the comics and expands the MCU drastically. This film is also the most stand-alone film in the MCU, since Iron Man as they don’t infest the film with a bunch of MCU references and let it be as it’s own film and doesn’t require you to view previous films to understand what is going on. As the film sticks to introducing magic to the MCU, with only a few references to the outer universe.

In conclusion, Doctor Strange is a freaky and funny film supported by an outstanding cast and magical visuals while stretching beyond the boundaries of the MCU and using its source material to its full potential.

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