director: Scott Derickson
writers: Scott Derrickson & Jon Spaihts,
starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams and Mads Mikkelsen
genre: Action | Comics | Fantasy
released: 4 November 2016 (USA), 27 October 2016 (Australia, Germany & Greece)
'Dr. Strange' feels like a film that has everything necessary to make it special and nothing in particular missing to make into a boring affair, but, besides it's cool effects, world of magic and a couple of fine comic book moments. Was this film really something great? Did it do anything specifically original to be a talking point for Marvel this year? And wasn't it just something that we were expecting it to be and nothing more?
A successful and talented neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) gets into a car accident that leaves his hands in an irrefutable damaged state resulting in his inability to continue as a surgeon. However, due to his self-centered nature he goes down a ego-driven quest to claim his life back by any means necessary. This leads him down the path of the mystic arts where he will possibly once again gain the ability to use his hands, but also learn the secrets that the mystic arts posse in the battle against the dark forces of the world.
Before the film began, I noticed the new Marvel Studios production logo and it seems marketing had a big hand in it to the say least. As it is now no longer a motion comic book with stills of the original character's adventures. Instead, it's all the Marvel Studios films superheroes in action poses. Just in case the little kids forgot this was a Marvel film and that action figures needed to be bought by them. The film itself also gets off to a bad start, having the story begin with an action scene introducing the main villain and plot line of the film as if it was a 'Star Wars' movie. So by the time we meet Strange we know who he is fighting and why pretty much all too well.
Strange himself is a decent character when given the chance. We do meet him at the operating table, but with a weird character introduction of him and a colleague debating an album's release with music in the background. This cool vibe right after an ominous action scene where we were first introduced to the mystic arts just didn't jell. Little by little though Strange grows on us especially when we get to know how egocentric and arrogant he is. Even his chemistry with Rachael McAdams character isn't bad and more importantly she doesn’t play the damsel in distress.
Later when Strange has his near death accident and loses the use of his hands. His journey for a remedy/solution is not only convenient but also highly coincidental. It so happens someone tells him the right guy to meet, who happen to have a miracle cure done on him and who knows the right location to the hideout of the most mystical magician group on Earth and this is why he gets to be the great Dr. Strange. It also kind of weak sauce that the mystical forces behind the scenes didn't lure Strange on this path nor fate in general as a matter of fact, but by recommendation of Benjamin Bratt of all people. And while Dr. Strange's training is kind of short and similar to what went down in the 'Green Lantern' film. It was nice to see Strange putting his medical mind to work and show off his skills. From being a speedy learner of the arts, hating being called Mr. and not Dr. and also actually feeling concerned about the possibility of breaking the Hippocratic oath. These minor touches do make Strange into a likable snarky guy that feels at home by the end of the film with the power he will hold.
Moreover, the action in the film while not ground breaking is decent. The biggest issue with it is that all the action set pieces had already been shown in the marketing material and the real surprises in the film was the ending (not its action elements) and some funny moments within the film's action scenes. Additionally, it has to be mentioned that the whole environment altering powers was over done and heavily pushed by the film's marketing. More interesting and entertaining than this 'Inception' like effect was actually the comedic touches layered out throughout it. For example when Strange had to think of new ways to using his powers to defeat the bad guys (especially at the very end) and the various weird relics magicians used and the effects they had on people. Also Dr. Strange's new powers in his old medical settings leads to some very interesting visual action scenes and has that crazy vibe of comedy and slight drama that is needed in these kind of films in order to forget about the weirder elements.
In regards to the supporting cast, while they were well defined as characters in their motivations and personalities and gave acceptable performances. Their wasn't a lot for them to do and they didn't have any subplot to name of. Instances where something more could have been done is with Mordo that was lacking intimate moments with Steven to bond about their troubled pasts and for them to then come at odds at the end over the Ancient One's shady dealings. Also, the bad guy played by Mads Mikkelsen is your run of the mill baddie who we never find out why he became evil and just wants to destroy the world, just like everyone else. Finally, there is Wong who had his moments but same again not much to do.
Without ruining the ending, I would have to say it was a nice surprise and change from the norm. Where wit saved the day over brawn. Unfortunately, though it cant be enjoyed to its full value as the rest of the film doesn't do enough to get you more invested with the characters and world. As the film is pretty short running a little under 2 hours. Usually comic book films are as long as 2-2.5 Hours. Thus, not leaving a lot of time for character building or subplots of any nature to be had.
Enjoying 'Dr. Strange' won't be an issue for anyone and not many will come out against it. Difficulty though will arise when it comes to praising it. As it runs into the well known Marvel villain problem, never gets dramatic enough and rushes past its character arc to the finish line. Making it a decent production by Marvel that isn’t as Strange as its title indicates.