Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Strange Magic: Doctor Strange Review

By: Michael Goldtrap

Marvel has a knack for making blockbuster films using relatively unknown characters from their catalog.  Some of the most well received films in the MCU are outside of The Avengers, including Guardians of the Galaxy and Antman.   Doctor Strange, relatively unknown to the casual, non-comic book reading fan, is the latest hero to grace the screen.  The good doctor was created by artist Steve Ditko in 1963, and has been featured in comics and in a forgettable 1978 live-action made for TV movie.

The latest iteration stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Steven Strange.  Cumberbatch plays to stereotype as an arrogant, egotistical neurosurgeon (they aren't really like that, are they?) who, due to a spectacular auto accident, suffers a debilitating injury to his most prized possessions; his hands. With no options available with western medicine, Steven travels to Kathmandu (leading to a hilarious Bob Seger reference)  to find The Ancient One portrayed brilliantly by Tilda Swinton. Under the tutelage of mystic Mordo and stoic librarian Wong, Doctor Strange is reluctantly drawn into an age-old conflict between the mystical forces of good and evil. The main antagonist, a rogue former student of The Ancient One is played by the reliably devious Mads Mikkelsen.

Director Scott Derrickson brings a decidedly surrealistic element to the MCU with his experience directing the supernatural in films like Sinister. Writer Jon Spaiths brings science fiction cred from his involvement in Promethius. Together they deliver a visually stunning piece of surrealistic eye candy with fight scenes set in environments reminiscent of Inception and The Matrix.  This is a film that really pops in Imax 3D especially during Doctor Strange's travels through multiple universes.

In a world weary of big overblown final battles ( I'm looking at you Ultron), the film chooses instead to go in a much more cerebral direction.  This is a film that will please hard-core and casual fans alike, and nicely sets up a sequel with well-done end credit easter eggs. With steady pacing, brilliant casting (with a grossly underused Rachel McAdams), and mind-bending visuals, Doctor Strange will no doubt be a major blockbuster for Marvel and will lead the MCU into new, mystical directions.