Doctor Strange is the newest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the 2nd movie of Phase 3. It tells the story of an arrogant, cocky, and egotistical Surgeon who loses the ability to use his hands, thereby making him useless at his job. To find an answer, he turns to mystical forces and ends up becoming a skilled practitioner of magic.
This actually meant a lot going forward for the MCU. For one thing, Strange is another B-list superhero (like Ironman was before 2008) to now become a huge part of this universe. The main thing was that magic was now being introduced to the MCU, which adds another layer to the scale of power among our heroes. So far, we’ve really only seen “magical” things from the Asgardians and the Infinity Stones, with most of our heroes having some connection to science instead (building suits, gamma rays, serums, genetically-altered spiders, etc). To have the kind of magic that Strange practices be introduced and to now have it there to play a big part going forward gives the storytellers another dimension (pun intended) to work with, and that’s exciting!
Now I’m not going to sit here and lie to you, despite that last paragraph…this is still your above-average introduction/set-up movie that we’ve seen in the MCU before. With all the new things we’ve been seeing recently like heroes against each other, villain team ups, the government getting involved, it was only a matter of time before we went back to formula: Dude has personality flaw, dude gets powers, dude learns something, generic villain, funny parts, entertaining scenes, set-up for next movie, done.
Fortunately…the Marvel Studios team just knows how to do this damn well by now that they could probably do it with their eyes closed at this point.
First things first, the VISUAL EFFECTS IN THIS MOVIE ARE AMAZING. I’ve never watched a movie in IMAX in my life, and after seeing what the pre-release reviews were saying about this film, I took the recommendation and put on those 3D glasses..and I’m so happy that I did. Look, I never learned all the technical camera work and I know very little about the special effects side of a movie. What I can tell you is that the effects in this movie were jaw-dropping, and since its actually watchable unlike most movies known for great effects (looking at you, Transformers), it all adds to the cinematic experience. I HIGHLY recommend seeing this movie in 3D.
As far as the cast goes, no problems here either. Benedict Cucumber Cabbage Patch portrayed the character of Stephen Strange very well, as an asshole who isn’t exactly a charming one like Tony Stark is. Tilda Swinton* also did a great job as the Ancient One, the Sorcerer Supreme who teaches Strange and plays a large role in the story. I’d like to mention Mads Mikkelson as well, he was actually great as Kaecillius. It just sucks that we got disposable MCU villain #508789, I wish he got a better story and was in the movie more.
*Look, I’m bummed that they didn’t cast within the ethnicity too, but she did really well and it didn’t feel like any sort of appropriation or BS at all. In fact at one point she was teaching Strange something that I recognized as the main lesson in the Bhagavad Gita (Hinduism) and she actually said it correctly…trust me, I’d know. The fact of the matter is, a Tibetan character would’ve lost Marvel and Disney millions of dollars in overseas sales and would’ve pissed off China, aka where a significant part of production is outsourced. I know I’ll probably catch heat for this but I’m just going to point out that so far the MCU has been cautious about this kind of stuff and isn’t trying to offend anyone. Examples just off the top of my head: I read that Elizabeth Olsen was promised that she would never have to wear the comic-style Scarlet Witch costume, which is basically just underwear and a cape, so that the character wouldn’t be sexualized. Plus, if you haven’t seen Luke Cage yet, Marvel definitely held it down for a huge minority group and did it really well . Look, all I’m saying is just give the movie a chance before you judge it off of ONE bad casting decision if you like the MCU, you’ll like this. Okay *sigh* moving on!
I will say that the movie is really exposition heavy, but doesn’t give too much on some of the stuff you’d want to hear more about. By the time you get to the last act, there is some stuff the audience potentially could still be fuzzy on, which I think could’ve been solved by giving more on Kaecillius as I previously mentioned. The character of Mordo is set-up very well and I’m excited to see more of them, so I will give props for that.
Lastly, I will commend the movie for doing one thing I was looking for. Obviously, Strange is very new to sorcery, talented or not. To have the villain in this film be masters and people who have done this better/earlier than he has makes it so that Strange is the inexperienced underdog. What I was worried about was that the movie would just go “Well, he’s Dr. Strange. So he’s really good. Boom. Hero. Villain down”. What actually happened was interesting, because at the end of the day Strange used his quick wit and intelligence (something he had from the start) to end up saving the day, despite still not being as powerful as his comrades and his enemies. This now gives him a few movies worth of off-screen time to master his abilities and be ready to bring the mystical hammer down in the next Avengers movie, and its cool that they didn’t just overpower him right away (well…I mean he is ridiculously powerful, but that’s just the magic. Like I said before, they’re adding a new layer to the power scaling. He will get better too, so if you watch this movie and his abilities seem to be a bit unfair, just remember that its different! And besides…just wait till we get Carol Danvers…ooh boy.)
All in all, Doctor Strange couldn’t top the thrills we received in Civil War, but did its job well and is a great transition into the new stories we’ll see in Phase 3. Strange gets a 7.5/10
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That’s all for now,