Doctor Strange (2016)

“No, I reject it because I do not believe in fairy tales about chakras or energy or the power of belief. There is no such thing as spirit! We are made of matter and nothing more. You’re just another tiny, momentary speck within an indifferent univer…“No, I reject it because I do not believe in fairy tales about chakras or energy or the power of belief. There is no such thing as spirit! We are made of matter and nothing more. You’re just another tiny, momentary speck within an indifferent univer…

“No, I reject it because I do not believe in fairy tales about chakras or energy or the power of belief. There is no such thing as spirit! We are made of matter and nothing more. You’re just another tiny, momentary speck within an indifferent universe.”

For the fourteenth film (hard to believe there has been so many films released in this saga already) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel Studios and our lord and Savior Kevin Feige take the spiritual route in the Sorcerer Supreme Doctor Strange, the master of the mystic arts. The MCU is quickly covering all its bases – Earth based heroes in the likes of the Avengers and cosmic with the Guardians of the Galaxy. The logical next step is the spiritual world with a toe dip into a possible multiverse. But before that can be explored, there is this little looming threat of the Mad Titan Thanos patiently waiting to get his hands on the completed infinity gauntlet.

Time and time again (get it) we’ve seen the casting choices either excel and raise a franchise or fail miserably. Marvel hasn’t failed once with all of their heroes casting. The same goes for this film. There were several names being tossed around but ultimately Marvel Studios picked the right guy for the job. Where Marvel continues to struggle is with the Villain. To date, villains that made an impact on the Marvel universe as a whole can be counted on one hand.

In the comics, Doctor Strange is a pretty impactful hero. In his professional career, Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) was one of the most talented neurosurgeons in the world.  Being the best also brings out the arrogance and cockiness of someone who thinks they are being humble. A horrific car accident took what Stephen values the most (his hands) away from him leaving Stephen a broken shell of what he once was. Even Christine’s (Rachel McAdams) assistance, it’s not enough to bring Stephen back from rock bottom. It’s at the bottom that Stephen finds hope in a place called Kamar-Taj thanks to a former paraplegic (Benjamin Bratt) who got the use of his legs back.

“What’s this? My mantra?
It’s the wi-fi password. We’re not savages.”

The teachings of the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), and Wong (Benedict Wong) give Stephen power he never could have fathomed before as well as the use of his hands again. Then there is Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) who breaks free from the Ancient one’s grasp to unleash the power of Dormammu from the dark dimension. As good of an actor as Mads is (watch Hannibal) the villain is another example of being poorly underdeveloped while lacking motivation for why he wants to unleash Dormammu on the earth. Its an unhealthy trend at Marvel Studios and Kaecilius is just as forgettable as majority of the villains we’ve been introduced to.

On the flip side, Benedict embodies Stephen Strange perfectly. It’s a bulletproof adaptation and casting from the pages of “Strange Tales” to the big screen. Benedict plays Strange with an air of confidence as if the two are actually one. The development for Stephen is also a high point as he moves away from his arrogance and extreme cockiness in thinking that he knows everything to being humbled by knowing only a fraction in his lessons. It took Stephen Strange to understand this in the span of one film the same way it takes Tony Stark to learn the same lesson throughout 23 films.

One of the best things about this film is its visuals. Director Scott Derrickson clearly took inspiration from early Stan Lee and Steve Ditko books. The visuals are funky, weird, and downright trippy. You can only sit and marvel at the achievement of the effects, they’re beautiful and edited to make us feel like we’re hallucinating – but it’s real. The story is meant to set things for what’s to come. The death is necessary for Stephen to become the sorcerers supreme for the impending doom.  The humor is very subtle at times and doesn’t take away from the seriousness of the tone. The cloak, although having no lines (it’s a cloak after all) guarantees the biggest laughs.

“Why are you doing this to me? To show you just how much you don’t know. Open your eye.“

We are finally introduced to a new infinity stone in this film. The Time stone which, if you can only guess, controls time. If you’re keeping count, that is the 5th infinity stone out of six. They are Time (Eye of Agamotto), Reality (Aether), Power (Orb), Mind (Loki’s Scepter, now in Vision’s forehead), and Space (Tesseract). All that remains is the soul stone which, at the time (We all know when and where it shows up so hush) could only be speculated as to when and where it could possibly be. We also get our fourteenth Stan Lee cameo as a man on the bus reading a book titled “The Doors of Perception” by author Aldous Huxley.

In the comics, the Ancient one is a male character so the liberties to make the character female and played by Tilda Swinton were met with protest (as a bunch of castings do in the genre), but that change doesn’t drastically derail the narrative at all. Tilda plays the Ancient One stoically and bravely while being revered by those that she teaches. Benedict Wong has this silent charisma with his character and has great chemistry with the other Benedict. Doctor Strange has good pacing for its timing and the cinematography is gorgeous.

Just like previous entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Doctor Strange offers two scenes – one mid credit scene and one post credit scene. The mid credit scene features the familiar face of Thor Odinson who is having a sit down with Stephen about Loki. The second scene features Mordo visiting the man who was a paraplegic and healed by the Ancient One. Mordo proceeds to take that power that was given back from him turning a shade evil in the process. Could it be foreshadowing to the sequel? We’ll have to wait and see.  

Overall, Doctor Strange is a visually eye popping film with breathtaking visual effects. It’s psychedelic eye porn. The lead and supporting characters are excellently portrayed with the villain being the main weak link in the chain. It’s evident that Marvel, up to this point, has no intention of slowing down nor should they. Kevin Feige has mastered the process for cranking out solid films with compelling superheroes that just about everyone can relate to. This film is sort of a pallet cleanser from what we were gifted in Civil War breaking up the fast paced story telling. Director Scott Derrikson hits the mark and same goes with Benedict squared. If I were to rate Doctor Strange, I’d rate it a 4.35 out of 5.

So, tell me guys, have you seen Doctor Strange and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think.

Doctor Strange is directed by Scott Derrickson is Rated PG-13 and has an 89% on Rotten Tomatoes. Doctor Strange was released on October 20th, 2016 and has a runtime of 1 hour and 56 minutes. Doctor Strange can be streamed on Disney Plus.

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Doctor Strange will return

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