Dr. Strange is a 2016 comic book film directed by Scott Derrickson who co-wrote the screenplay with C. Robert Cargill. The 14th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is based on the Marvel comics of the same name, featuring the titular character.
The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong and Benjamin Bratt. Dr. Stephen Strange is the leading neurosurgeon in his field. After a catastrophic car accident leaves him unable to operate and Western medicine has failed him, he journeys to Nepal in search of a different kind of healing and is brought under the tutelage of The Ancient One, who teaches him how to use magic.
This film was perfectly cast. It’s hard to imagine anyone else fulfilling any of these roles as perfectly as these actors did. Every single one of them performed very well. You don’t see them – the actors – on the screen, you see their characters.
The real standouts are Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton and Mads Mikkelsen.
Cumberbatch did an amazing job as Dr. Stephen Strange. He captured his arrogance, selfishness and self-centered nature as effectively as he did his desperation in the middle of the film and his humility by the end of it, whilst maintaining his intelligence and diligence throughout. He was able to portray the character as he changed over the course of the film and also the things about him that stayed the same.
Strange doesn’t actually go where you think he will by the end of the film, which is a bit of a surprise, but it’s a good thing; it gives him somewhere to go in later films.
He works well as a main character. He’s compelling and you will want to see more of him.
Swinton brought a serenity, poise and grace to The Ancient One that such a character would have, but this is Tilda Swinton. She did it with subtlety. Her acting at no point felt over done.
Even though Kaecilius didn’t really appear in the film that much – given that he is the villain – Mikkelsen shined in every scene he was in and played the character in a way that lent complexity to the motivation and reasoning behind his grand scheme. His performance also made said motivation and reasoning feel organic rather than generic – although in some ways it is – and purposefully tragic in order to make the audience sympathise with him.
However, Marvel continues its streak of having weak villains. He’s not the worst – he’s closer to Loki than he is to Ronan or Zemo – and he has a better motivation than most. But he’s still kind of “meh.” He shows up, does the villain thing and then he’s gone.
He’s a little underdeveloped as are pretty much all of the characters, but they’re developed enough that you’re invested in them and the plot can move forward sensibly.
Rachel McAdams’ character, Christine, felt like she served no real purpose beyond being an emotional anchor for Strange and a kind of, sort of love interest. She did and was not much of anything independent of him. McAdams is great in the role and plays it with her usual charm, but it would have been very much appreciated if she if she hadn’t fallen into the hole that every other love interest in the Marvel Cinematic Universe does; existing solely for the male lead.
This film has a fairly standard origin story that is very competently done. The beginning does feel a bit rushed, however. Like the filmmakers were trying were to cram as much of his pre-sorcery life into as little time as possible in order to dedicate that much more time to his life as a sorcerer.
It’s not made clear how long Strange had been training for. It can be surmised by thinking of the film and how it links to and in the context of the other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but preferably the audience should not have to do that. The film should be explicit in how much time had passed.
The finale is quite different from other films in this genre. It is more in the vein of that of Guardians of the Galaxy. It was a clever and ingenious way of defeating the villain that was also quite funny.
This film is unexpectedly humorous and has more laugh out loud funny moments than one would think it would. The humour works and doesn’t feel forced.
The CGI is impressive. Especially with the scene in which Strange experiences the multiverse and the look of magic as the sorcerers are using it. The CGI people aren’t as good and look fake, as did his cape (it’s very obvious when it’s CGI and when it’ real), but aside from that it was very well done. It looks real and natural. The visuals are stunning. And trippy.
Dr. Strange is a very good film. It is definitely one of the better ones in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel Studios has proven once again that it can take an obscure property with a premise that should not work and make magic – no pun intended. It is by no means perfect, but the good by leaps and bounds outweighs the bad (and that bad isn’t really all that bad to begin with). It fits nicely into the established universe; especially with the series of films it crosses over with in the second post-credits scene. It is a must-see for any fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.