Strong casting and visuals set film apart from others
“Doctor Strange” is a breath of fresh air in what has become an overly formulaic Marvel Cinematic Universe, telling the story of time, space, alternate dimensions and the metaphysical.
Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a brilliant surgeon who fits every archetype of a doctor with a God complex. He is a narcissistic, wise-cracking jerk whose only purpose in life is the advancement of himself. He’s Tony Stark with a scalpel.
After a typical anti-hero introduction, Strange crashes his Lamborghini, and destroys his hands. Seeking to repair his instruments of wealth and success, Strange spares no expense to regain control of his hands, sinking into a deep depression, and pushing away his love interest (Rachel McAdams), whose character could have been cut from the entire movie and it wouldn’t have mattered. Strange literally could have had a beloved pet and it would have served the same purpose, but you know … love interest.
His quest leads him to Nepal, where he is rescued by Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a mysterious ninja-monk (are there any other kind?). Strange follows Mordo to a temple and is forced to wait on the steps like Robert Paulson or Angelface before him.
After an exhausting six hours on the steps, The Elder One (Tilda Swinton) allows Strange to enter the temple and begins to teach him the ways of the kung-fu force.
The first half of “Doctor Strange” is formulaic, and you’ve seen it before — reluctant hero changes his ways and saves the day.
“Doctor Strange” shines because of the casting and visuals. Mystic kung-fu fights take place in “Inception”-esque set pieces, where the environment becomes a weapon for hero and villain alike.
The villain Kaecillius (Mads Mikkelsen of Hannibal), whose motivations are shallow but sensible (ULTIMATE POWAAAAHHH), brokers a deal with the space devil to take over Earth in exchange for eternal life.
The climax is not a physical fight, but a strategic one, which is the last thing I expected from a Marvel movie at this point. Of course the good guys win (they always do), but Strange is victorious because of his tact and perseverance. That takes some serious meditation balls.
Make sure you stay for both post-credit scenes. They set the table for not only the “Doctor Strange” sequel, but a certain Avenger’s next movie as well. Hint: He’s tall and blond.
Like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Doctor Strange” stands out because of its characters, casting, visuals and atypical conflicts. In a Marvel Universe overwrought with explosions and espionage, Doctor Strange firmly plants his feet (or at least floats over it) in the ground, establishing himself as a hero worthy of your time and money.