While “Doctor Strange” is a tightly paced special effects spectacle with many refreshing elements and exciting and inventive visual effects –it’s real achievement is that it is enjoyable for both those familiar with the Marvel universe as well as those who have yet to see a comic book movie.
Doctor Strange’s origin differs from most of the other characters in the Marvel universe. Instead of a science fiction explanation, like gamma rays or a technologically advanced suit, his powers are of a mystical nature. This unique aesthetic separates the character from other Marvel superheroes.
The story begins with Dr. Stephen Strange, portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch, a brilliant, but arrogant neurosurgeon. His career as a surgeon is upended when he damages his hands in a car accident, leaving him unable to perform his surgical duties. After exhausting all the avenues of traditional western medicine, in desperation, he seeks out a different type of treatment – in Nepal.
In Nepal, Dr. Strange finds his way to the temple Kamar-Tajfinds and becomes a disciple of its resident, The Ancient One, played by Tilda Swinton. The Ancient One possesses vast magical knowledge and power. Under the guidance of The Ancient One, Dr. Strange sets on a path to master the mystic arts and becoming a sorcerer.
Despite the film’s positive qualities, the movie has similar weaknesses as many other films in the Marvel Universe do – an underdeveloped villain and female lead.
The villain, Kaecilius played by Mads Mikkelsen, does not have a clear motive or plan. We know he wants to destroy the world to gain immortality by merging it with a cosmic being, but his rationale, under closer observation, seems vague and opaque.
Rachel McAdams portrays Dr. Christine Palmer, a colleague and love interest of Dr. Strange. Disappointingly, her character suffers the same issues as the film’s villain. We never understand why her character puts up with Strange’s abuse. As a result, she ends up being little more than a plot device and foil for the protagonist.
One of the film’s strongest elements is the art design and special effects. Aesthetically, the mystical world built in “Doctor Strange” sets the bar very high for future movies.
The art design does a great job of creating a setting for this story. The location of the story takes you across the world and to different dimensions, incorporating vivid set designs that immerse you in the character’s world.
The films use of CGI creates a sense of awe and spectacle, which takes the audience across space and time and the scenes of buildings folding in on themselves and splitting in two must be viewed on widescreen.
As with the other Marvel Studios film’s “Doctor Strange” serves to propel a larger plot that will presumably be resolved in the next Avengers film. How the film ties into the larger universe, and its storyline, is not revealed until the movie conclusion making it so the film’s story is not hampered by a connection to a larger continuity.
If you want a faced paced and psychedelic action adventure movie, “Doctor Strange” is for you.