Movie Review – Marvel’s Dr. Strange (Spoiler Free)

Hello fello nerds,

I feel a little late to the party but we finally got a chance to see Marvel’s Doctor Strange. Getting straight to the point, this movie is very good.  If the main goal of this movie was for Marvel to introduce the mystic arts, I would argue that Marvel Studios has hit its mark. Marvel’s attention to quality is out in full force here, and while that means that all the action and character development is here, that also means that many of the cliches and drawbacks are also to be found.

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To state the obvious, the visuals are the best aspect of this movie. With the introduction of magic in the MCU, Marvel Studios took the opportunity to push the boundaries of their effects and made the most of their opportunity. The scope of the film is amazing and the sense of scale during their key set pieces are fantastic. The warping effects and gravity defying stunts are pulled off masterfully. In particular, this is a rare case in which I would recommend watching the film in 3D. The visual effects are done so well, you won’t feel as though you overpaid for the extra ticket price which speaks volumes to the quality of the visuals. Truly, enough can’t be said to relay how amazing the visuals in this film are without seeing them for yourself. While the setting and visuals do a good job of setting up the world, it would all be wasted if the characters could not carry the script. Luckily, Marvel did a phenomenal job with the casting.

Benedict Cumberbatch does an amazing job playing the sorcerer supreme, Dr. Steven Strange. It was a bold move delaying the production of this film to allow him to play the lead role; it was a move that paid off since it quickly becomes obvious that no other person could fill Dr. Strange’s shoes. Other notable casting choices for supporting roles include Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo, Rachel McAdams as Christine, Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius, and Tilda Swanton as the Ancient One. In particular, it’s important to note the risk Marvel took for casting Tilda Swanton as The Ancient One. While the ancient one is an old asian man in the original Marvel comics, changing the Ancient One to a white female is a very divisive move. While I always prefer that the source material is adhered to, especially for comic book movies, Tilda Swanton is arguably the strongest performance of the film and the character with the most profound insight. While the movie continues the tradition of quality people expect, it continues to be bogged down by the problems of Marvel films past. Worse yet, it has become very difficult to excuse Marvel Studios for continuing to make these mistakes time and time again.

Firstly, the villain continues to be a redundant fill-in-the-blank bad guy you have come to expect. While Mads Mikkelsen is an amazing talent and can be very intimidating, he cannot overcome the script and it fails to truly develop his character in any meaningful way. Furthermore, it speaks to the larger problem of the MCU. Except for the exception of Loki in past Marvel films, the MCU continually fails to flesh out the villains in their movies. This often results in characters that are underwhelming and compared to the source material, unsatisfying. It begs the question: if Marvel doesn’t care about the villains in their movies, why should the heroes and more importantly the viewers? Great casting will not correct this decision and Marvel needs to realize that their heroes are great because of their villains, not in spite of them.

Lastly, this film is plagued with the continual reminder that this is a film for children in the worst spot: its script. Many times, I found myself groaning, rolling my eyes, or just unimpressed at the attempts to make the viewer laugh. This is not to say that there aren’t funny moments or moments of charisma, but that the missteps of the script overshadow genuine moments of laughter. Moments of tension/self-discovery/sadness are often interrupted by forced humour and reminded me that the deeper contexts of comic book movies continue to play second fiddle to the need to appeal to children. I would have preferred to soak in the moment and to linger for just a second longer but this film refused to allow me to do so. Again, the deeper meanings and themes continue to be overshadowed and it is truly disappointing.

Is Dr. Strange a good movie? Very much so. As a comic fan and action movie fan, I encourage you to watch this movie if only for the merit of the visuals alone. It continues to use the blueprint that was created by Iron man and does so well. That being said, many of the mistakes of the past are repeated here and as comic fans that understand the deeper contexts of the source material, it is time we begin to demand more of these movies (if even a little bit). I give this movie a 7.25/10 grails.

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