Movie Review: Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange hero

*Warning: Spoilers Ahead*

Marvel’s latest movie, Doctor Strange, has been described as Inception on horse steroids. On fire. And with Sherlock. Which, I’d say, is pretty apt. There are a good amount of scenes that are such visual eye candy that it’s too hard to take in everything that’s going on. From trippy, neon alternate dimensions to buildings and landscape being bent in all sorts of impossible-seeming configurations you definitely have to hand it to the visual effects animators.

I’d been waiting to see this since it was announced that Benedict Cumberbatch was going to be playing the lead role. I’ve been a fan of his since the very first season of Sherlock on BBC and his casting just seemed to be as perfect as Robert Downey Jr.’s was for Tony Stark. (As an aside, I’d love to see the two of them share a quick banter where one would throw out a Sherlock Holmes line and they’d both give a knowing look or something.) After the initial trailer was released I had tried to stay away from watching the clips that were released and stuff just so I would have a fresh opinion going in to watch it.

I knew of the backstory of Doctor Strange: Incredibly gifted egotistical surgeon at the top of his game gets in a car crash and busts up his hands so bad that they constantly shake. After exhausting all medical options and much of his fortune, he travels to the far east and finds The Ancient One who tutors him in the mystical arts. Aside from that, I’ve read only a little of him in comics over the years. Mostly just when he guest starred in comic series that I was already reading. But he always seemed pretty cool and always had some mystical card up his sleeve to get out of most impossible situations. In the movie version, I was a little disappointed that they didn’t focus a little more at the beginning about how self-centered and egotistical he was. But, I guess it can be excused since this was an origin story and there was SO much material to cover. And they did make it a focal point for much of the movie. So that’s fine.

Cumberbatch’s performance was pretty darn good. Even his American accent wasn’t too bad. He deftly played to the despair his character faced after his accident but also imbued a sense of humor to the role. He definitely looks the part with the cape and the Eye of Agamatto added to the goatee and white streaks in his hair. A little bit of trivia: Cumberbatch actually did motion capture and the voice for Dormammu. Check IMDB. He’s listed as ‘Facial Motion Capture: Dormammu (uncredited).

Tilda Swinton actually impressed me with her role as The Ancient One. I still wish they would not have played politics and would have cast an Asian male actor for the part. (They were afraid of the Chinese government not allowing the film to be released if it had ties to Taiwan since the original Ancient One was a Tibetan Monk.) But Swinton handled the role well and affirmed herself well with it. I did find it interesting that they revealed that she had been drawing power from the Dark Dimension to maintain her youth. I’m not sure if that’s the same as in the comics but it gave Mordo the reason he needed to leave the order and go rogue.

Speaking of Mordo. I knew in the comics he was a bad guy so I was just waiting to see when or how he changed from helping Strange and The Ancient One. Played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mordo has a very rigid belief that sorcerers should not tamper with the natural order. Something that Strange does on several occasions using the Eye of Agamotto. But I really didn’t know much of his backstory in the comics other than he was a constant nemesis of Doctor Strange.

Another interesting bit of casting was that of Wong. In the comics, Wong was Doctor Strange’s man servant. Played in the movie by the great actor, Benedict Wong who is known for several great roles including Kublai Khan in Netflix’s series Marco Polo, Wong’s backstory is changed to make him the ‘replacement’ librarian at the monastery after the original librarian is unceremoniously killed in the opening scene of the movie. How Wong will serve Doctor Strange in sequels or cameos in other movies will be interesting to see. I’m sure that Marvel Studios shied away from having an Asian man be an indentured servant of a white man for pretty obvious PC reasons. But Strange had some good (and funny) scenes with Wong when they were getting acclimating with each other.

The ultimate bad guy in the movie, Kaecilius, played by Mads Milkenson, was, as far as I know, an original villain. By this I mean that there is no comic book equivalent, from what I understand. He plays a former disciple of The Ancient One who finds out her secret of using the dark dimension power, leaves the order and decides that he needs to bring Earth to the Dark Dimension so that we can live forever in it’s ‘perfect harmony’. Kaecilius is an interesting character but pretty much two dimensional. Which is fine. I don’t always need a complex backstory for the villains. I was actually shocked to see one of his ‘henchmen’ was Scott Adkins. His character’s name was Lucian and he got in a pretty good fight scene. Even tousled with the cloak of levitation.

All in all, I’d say that I very much enjoyed Doctor Strange. I’d definitely recommend seeing it in 3D if possible. I don’t normally make that recommendation but the way it was used here was done very well. Especially during the trippy other-dimensional and out-of-body scenes. There are two bonus credits scenes. One mid-credits and one end credits. Both are pretty good and give you a good peak into what’s coming soon. All I will say is that it looks like Doctor Strange may be teaming up in some capacity with Thor and Hulk in the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok movie. Oh, and if you were wondering, yes the Eye of Agamotto is the Time Infinity Stone. This makes me start thinking: if the Vision has the Mind Stone in his forehead and Strange has the Time Stone, removing them would seriously deplete each ones powers. In the case of Vision, it would be like cutting the strings on a marionette doll since it’s one of the primary things that gives him sentience.

So let’s take inventory of where I know where all the stones are right now:

  • Mind Stone: Vision’s head
  • Time Stone: Eye of Agamotto
  • Space Stone: Asgard in Odin’s vault
  • Reality Stone: (AKA The Aether) The Collector’s Museum
  • Power Stone: In the NOVA Corps vault
  • Soul Stone: Unknown (My theory is that Hela has it)

We’ll see how Thanos will gather them all. Also, wasn’t he shown getting the Infinity Gauntlet from Odin’s vault in the Avengers: Age of Ultron post-credit scene ?

Rating: 8.5/10


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