Doctor Strange (2016)

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Question Reality. Change Your Destiny. 
This review contains Spoilers
 Doctor Strange is directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister, Deliver Us From Evil) and stars Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, The Imitation Game), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, The Martian), Rachel McAdams (Midnight in Paris, Spotlight) and Tilda Swinton (Narnia, We Need To Talk About Kevin.). "A former neurosurgeon embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts". Marvel has such an established world and formula - will they be able to add a brand new character that isn't in the mainstream successfully? 

I have a lot of things to say about this film...and the majority of them are very positive as I really enjoyed Doctor Strange - a lot more than I thought I would actually. Even though the film is formulaic and just like every Marvel origin story, it still extremely enjoyable and has only a few flaws. This might possibly be my favourite superhero film of the year so far - in a year where the comic book genre has generally disappointed, it is nice for a film like Doctor Strange to come along and impress. I definitely can't wait to see more of this character in future Marvel films. 

Lets dive straight in and comment on the performances in the film - all of which were very good, I don't think anybody didn't pull their weight! Firstly, Benedict Cumberbatch has won me over - I liked him in The Imitation Game but I didn't really think he had much diversity as an actor but this is completely different to what he has done before. I don't know whether it is the American accent, the facial hair or the magical powers but Cumberbatch really came across as versatile playing Doctor Strange. This is the first time where I honestly think Cumberbatch has it in him to be a movie star - I would like to see him do some more fun, mainstream films in order to confirm whether this is the case. I also worried Cumberbatch and the character were going to be unlikeable as Strange has many similarities to Iron Man - I have liked Tony Stark less and less as the films have went on. However, despite Strange being called arrogant by the characters around him, I found him really likeable (does that mean Cumberbatch wasn't playing the character right?) and he is definitely one of my favourite Marvel characters. I don't know whether it is the fact that the character really does have an interesting story - at the top of their game at the beginning but hits rock bottom and builds their way up in a completely new way. Cumberbatch really did a good job introducing the character and I am sure Strange is going to be a fan favourite. 

Tilda Swinton was also someone I have quite a lot to say about. Firstly, Swinton's casting is inappropriate and I do not agree with - this is whitewashing. However, looking past that, Swinton really does put her all into the role. I was actually impressed by how subtle she was with her performance - she wasn't too cheesy or in-your-face, she was calm and I really thought that approach worked well. Swinton also convincingly portrayed The Ancient One even though the character is usually male - Swinton did a very good job. I also thought the character took an interesting ark and I was actually surprised to see the death of The Ancient One in this film. However, the character definitely left a legacy and taught Strange a lesson before she went. This portrayal of The Ancient One was almost a revised version of the stereotypical character - the gender and race have been changed and the performance is much more subtle than usual - I think this was a very good choice, Swinton did a great job and I think she will be rightfully remembered for this role. 

As for the rest of the supporting cast, they all also did a splendid job. It was funny to see Rachel McAdams play a typical McAdams-style role but still fit into the Marvel universe. McAdams was doing what she does best and satisfied once again. I especially liked the scenes were her character was trying to carry out operations and Strange kept interrupting. Chiwetel Ejiofor was also good - even though he didn't make as much of an impression - for the most part, he was a likeable sidekick to Strange. However, the character takes an interesting turn right at the end and in the second end credits scene - I didn't really see this turn coming so I think this will need to be developed and explained in later films for it to actually be effective. 

The visual effects in Doctor Strange were something else - even though the marketing seemed like the film was borrowing heavily from the visual palette of Inception, after seeing Strange, it definitely stands on its own very well. The visual effects were trippy and mind bending but also really really cool - I thought the way the film got around the public being effected was good (mirror bubbles) and it actually explained by all of this super cool stuff was happening without a blink of an eye from the public. There was only one slip up with the visuals which was most prominent towards the beginning of the film - when the characters were jumping around, it was very clear that wires had been used...it just didn't seem very natural. I actually didn't see Doctor Strange in 3D but I can only assume this film would be even more visually stunning in that format and definitely worth the extra cost. Even though the film did a lot to do with time travel, I also thought it was refreshing to see magic as an important element. It was cool how magic became a martial art and the visuals to do with the action sequences were very good - all of the talent did a convincing job fighting with magic too. The visual effects are definitely spellbinding and impressive. 

Now onto the plot - the only slip up Doctor Strange has is in this area. It is such a shame that such a visually inventive film with great characters and performances are only included in such a generic and formulaic origin story - the film was original in most areas except for the plot. I know Marvel has a formula so they know what works and Doctor Strange is likely to be a financial success and prove that the company was right to go with the formula once again. I'm now going to talk about some plot points in a little more detail.

I thought the pre-'Strange' scenes were actually some of the most interesting - we got to see what this superhero was like before he became the powerful magician he is at the end of the movie. Strange is a successful doctor who only likes to work on patients with issues that are hard to cure. The film then subtlety becomes very tense when Strange is driving incredibly fast through the bendy roads - every time he over takes, the tension notches up another level as the audience know what is coming. Then eventually the crash does happen and the build up of tension definitely paid off - this was a rare, subtle moment in a Marvel film where you are actually on the edge of your seat. 

The finale is also unfortunately an area where some of my problems fell. I was actually worried Doctor Strange was going to do what Storks did in the final act and create problems that are way too big so the finale would be rushed, it did not do that and it actually took quite an inventive route and used Strange's powers to turn back time. I thought this was very good and this was actually somewhere I wanted the film to go. I then expected that time would be reversed, Strange and the team would prepare to face off the villain (more on him in a minute) and then they would fight and it would conclude. That didn't really happen. Strange ends up venturing into the dark dimension to bargain with the big, bad villain that doesn't really get any development as is as forgettable as they come. The big finale sequence is literally Strange repeatedly reversing time until he does get to bargain successfully with the villain - this did kind of rip off the technique used in Edge of Tomorrow but it kind of worked but the finale as a whole was anticlimactic. There were some great action sequences early on including ones that took place in a hospital operation room, I don't understand why there wasn't really anything big and exciting at the end. Marvel did this with Guardians of the Galaxy with the dance off - least this was a battle of some sort, Doctor Strange really doesn't have an end battle sequence (sadly). Other than the big, bad villain, the other main villain in the film is also not that great which isn't surprising considering this is a Marvel film and they haven't really created a good villain other than Loki. This isn't one of Marvel's worst villains but he is seriously underdeveloped and doesn't even have a memorable name. 

The big takeaway from Doctor Strange though is the confirmation that he holds an infinity stone - everyone was speculating this from the marketing and costume design but the film keeps teasing you throughout and doesn't confirm until the very end. I thought this reveal was actually well executed and it was exciting that Doctor Strange is now one of the most powerful characters in the MCU. So what does this mean for the character and the future of the MCU? Well, it means we're definitely going to see a lot more of Strange and I am very happy about that! It also kind of meant that a film that otherwise felt like it stood alone from the other Marvel films is tied into the bigger picture. 

Doctor Strange is a film of many talents and genres - it has action, fantasy, drama, sci-fi and comedy! Yes, you can't get a Marvel film these days without some good comedy! My favourite moment came from the character of Mong - I thought Strange's reaction to him only going by one name was very funny - comparing him to the likes of Adele, Beyonce, Drake and Eminem was hilarious! What made this even funnier was how Mong is spotted listening to Single Ladies by Beyonce in a later scene, even though Marvel had to probably dish out some cash for the rights to use that song, it was definitely used effectively and helped provide the film with a big laugh. Stan Lee's cameo was also as great as ever - Stan Lee seems to get more chatty and more energetic as the years go on...you wouldn't think he is getting older and nearing 95!

Now for some miscellaneous comments on Doctor Strange - I really really liked the new Marvel Studios introduction. I liked how they have made the transition from comic images to a montage of all the films - Marvel is such a big company at this point and have so many successful films, I don't see why they can't brag about their glory in a quick montage. The soundtrack to this was also quite moving and I thought showing all of these clips was a great move as it made Doctor Strange feel even more like an 'event movie' - I was thinking 'wow I loved all of these films, maybe this film can join that Hall of Fame one day' and I really think Doctor Strange should and will. I also thought the film felt very magical as a whole and I think this release date towards the end of 2016 was a good decision as it just had a very fitting feel to it. 

There are two end credit scenes - one is exciting and fun, the other really didn't have much of an impact. The first includes Thor and it basically suggests that Thor and Strange are going to work together - will Strange join Hulk and Thor in playing a big role in Thor 3? Who knows but I would love to see him appear. However, the second end credit scene tries to explain Ejiofor's characters change - he actually seems to be quite villainess but because there wasn't really much development done into this, it didn't make too much sense so I hope this is explored further in future films. 

Doctor Strange is my favourite superhero film of the year - despite the plot being pretty formulaic and not too different to other Marvel origin films, I am really sold on the magic, time travel and the characters. Cumberbatch shows potential to be a movie star and really makes what should be quite an unlikeable, arrogant character very likeable and humourous at times. The visual effects are very unique and incredibly done. This is another chapter in the MCU so don't even think about skipping it as you would be missing out. This may be strange for Marvel as its their first time exploring Marvel but it really is an incredibly entertaining film that I really did enjoy. 

82
/100

Well done if you made it to the end of that long review!


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