Review: Doctor Strange

★★★☆

In Doctor Strange, Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Dr. Steven Strange, a brilliant but arrogant neurosurgeon. When a car accident renders his hands useless and Western medicine fails him, he journeys to Nepal and discovers a monastery called Kamar-Taj run by a woman called The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). She takes Strange under her wing, teaches him mystical arts and trains him to be a defender against mystical threats.

This movie has two stars: Benedict Cumberbatch and the special effects. As Doctor Strange, Cumberbatch simply rocks. Everyone knew he would nail the part, given his body of work over the past few years, coupled with his ability to make the most arrogant of characters – i.e. Sherlock Holmes – likeable and relatable to an audience.

What makes the character so compelling this time around is his dogged desire to improve himself. In the film, Strange is a character who takes his intellect very seriously, and as he grows to become a more powerful sorcerer and his mystical understanding deepens, the audience is also able to follow along as he gradually becomes humble and less arrogant in his journey.

This path eventually leads to one of the most brilliant and hilarious conclusions of a superhero film in recent memory, a clever variation on how most superhero movies from recent years have ended.
The special effects are intensely trippy in a cosmic and world-bending way, perhaps some of the best of all time. Borrowing from sources of imagery like Nolan’s Inception, Kon’s Paprika, and a limitless number of psychedelic cosmic paintings and visuals, the film creates dizzying and infinitely complex set pieces that rival some of best computer-generated effects ever put to film. I have but two small complaints in regards to the effects. The first is the fact that the final villain, comprised almost totally of computer generation, looks a bit cartoonish. The second is that the characters sometimes lack a sense of gravity. When the characters are jumping around during the world-bending sequences, they don’t quite fall in a manner that adheres to the established rules of gravity, and it ends up looking a bit like it came out of a video game.

I have but two small complaints in regards to the effects. The first is the fact that the final villain, comprised almost totally of computer generation, looks a bit cartoonish. The second is that the characters sometimes lack a sense of gravity. When the characters are jumping around during the world-bending sequences, they don’t quite fall in a manner that adheres to the established rules of gravity, and it ends up looking a bit like it came out of a video game.

The supporting cast is littered with solid performances, with Benedict Wong as Wong and Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Mordo as noteworthy standouts. They add a lot of charm and humor to what would have otherwise been a dull and exposition-heavy section of the movie. Mads Mikkelsen as the villainous Kaecilius and Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer (aka Strange’s on-and-off love interest) are perhaps a bit underutilized, though their on-screen presences are solid.

Mads Mikkelsen as the villainous Kaecilius and Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer (aka Strange’s on-and-off love interest) are perhaps a bit underutilized, though their on-screen presences are solid. Special mention also goes to Tilda Swinton for her performance as The Ancient One, Strange’s primary mystical mentor. I would have to agree on the criticism that the character should have been played by an actor or actress of Asian descent like in the comics. Nonetheless, Swinton really gets in the zone with the role, fluctuating smoothly from being contemplative and wise, humorous in the way she constantly takes Strange down a peg, and even being a bit of a bad ass in the world-bending-based fight sequences.

Special mention also goes to Tilda Swinton for her performance as The Ancient One, Strange’s primary mystical mentor. I would have to agree on the criticism that the character should have been played by an actor or actress of Asian descent like in the comics. Nonetheless, Swinton really gets in the zone with the role, fluctuating smoothly from being contemplative and wise, humorous in the way she constantly takes Strange down a peg, and even being a bit of a bad ass in the world-bending-based fight sequences.

Doctor Strange is once again another success story for Marvel. They’ve taken something weird and obscure and made it into another solid, immensely enjoyable movie. Definitely has my stamp of recommendation, go see it if you can.

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