“Doctor Strange” Movie Review: A Psychedelic Rollercoaster
“Arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all.” –The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton)
Marvel Studios’ latest film, Doctor Strange, is a vivid piece of work, defying the laws of nature by embracing the laws of sorcery.
Directed by Scott Derrickson, who strangely enough is well-known for his work with horror films, “Doctor Strange” is the second movie of Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase Three. The movie stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Steven Strange, a neurosurgeon who, after a devastating car crash that permanently damaged his hands, goes on a journey of healing and instead finds the hidden world of the mystic arts, or in simpler terms, magic.
Stepping out of this movie, I was ready to basically say in this review, “It was awesome, so awesome! Cumberbatch was great. The effects were out of this world, and…yeah, watch the movie. You’ll regret it if you don’t.” However, after giving myself an hour to digest the movie and get my thoughts together, I figured that there were a few minor details to nitpick at before I give it props.
One small problem I had with the film was that, like most Marvel films, the villain was not fleshed out enough to make him a memorable figure. Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) is menacing in the movie, for Mikkelsen did an outstanding job bringing this infamous villain to life. However, the film teases the audience with his mind-bending abilities and daunting face. He is given enough screen time to definitely label him as the bad guy in the film, but I would have liked to see a couple of expositional scenes to explain his reasons for wanting to destroy the world.
Another problem was that there was no indication of how much time had passed while Strange was under the tutelage of The Ancient One. Because of this, it seemed as though Strange was able to learn magic, not from years of practice, but only a few days or months.
Now that I am done nitpicking, I will give props to Benedict Cumberbatch for his interpretation of this legend in Marvel lore. Cumberbatch kills it as Doctor Strange, fleshing out this unlikeable and arrogant character and transforming him into a man who is willing to change but not suddenly lose his wittiness and sarcastic demeanor.
Christine Palmer, played by Rachel McAdams, actually worked as Doctor Strange’s love interest in the film. Unlike the unrealistic romance between Thor and Jane, Christine and Doctor Strange have amazing chemistry, which is obvious in the way that they banter in the workplace and even argue when Strange bitterly points out their relationship status. I also respect the subtly of their love for one another, that it is not laid on too thick throughout the movie. There is no random make-out session to remind the audience that they are in love, nor are they stiff when around each other. Movie-goers will see that Christine is a significant person in Doctor Strange’s life, not some convenient love interest for the movie.
Crazy. Out of this world. Beautiful. Mind-boggling. These are just a few words to describe the magic that goes on in this movie. The buildings, sidewalks, and roads twist with ease more so than the human body. The laws of gravity, matter, and nature mean nothing in this film as it exposes the audience to a world where anything is possible, as long as your mind thinks it. When the fighting happens, it happens in such a nonchalant way, like conjuring portals and astral projecting is a part of a reality that we cannot reach, yet desperately wanting to.
When tackling this film, many critics are looking through a keyhole the same way Doctor Strange did at the start of the film, claiming that the film has great effects, but lack substance. Their mistake with this film is separating style and substance into two different aspects of a movie. Doctor Strange does not throw magical shields, spears, and whips at the audience just because. The strange, Inception-like throw downs and magical conjures are physical manifestations of the characters and their idiosyncrasies. Doctor Strange’s magic is depicted differently than magic from Kaecilius, The Ancient One, or Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Each character had their own way of using their magic, and these “flashy” scenes actually meshed well with the story as a whole. The magic is strange.
Movie-goers are not just watching cool, mindless CGI. When things go down, it will affect the audience emotionally. You will not just think “Oh that was awesome” because each action has a purpose in telling this tale. Because the magic is a part of the characters, their mental states are evident in how they use their magic. Magic is not just a tool for visual praise.
Doctor Strange is adventurous, exhilarating, and breathtaking to watch. It will twist your psyche the same way it bends reality. For those who have vertigo, I strongly caution you. Doctor Strange is a journey, a story of self-discovery…with magic. The moment it starts, you will be sucked right in until the screen blackens.
Audiences can be assured that nothing mundane will happen when Doctor Strange is on screen. It just gets stranger, and stranger.