Written by Jacob Chimilar (@sweetlows)
With the Summer Civil War behind us it's time for Marvel's Fall magical movie. This spot has been taken mostly by the Thor films which implore a more fantastical element. It only makes sense now to include Doctor Strange in a similar slot. The story follows Steven Strange a neurosurgeon who is an expert in his field, performing precise surgeries with skill and ease. However one day he is speeding down the road in the pouring rain when he gets distracted by a chart sent from another doctor on a device in the car, he swerves into another car and flies off the road. This leaves him with many injuries, the most severe of which are crippled hands. Unable to hold his hands steady he looks for ways to fix them and save his profession. His rehab assistant tells him about a man who recovered from a seemingly irreversible spinal injury and seeks him out for advice. He is told about a place in Nepal that cured him of his problems and Strange, after spending a fortune on care, spends his last dime to meet the people who can save him but as always there is a catch.
Once you get past Cumberbatch's American accent, the stuff leading up to the real meat of the story and non standard super-heroics you'll find a film about a man who seeks to help himself and finds that in order to do so he must help others. It's certainly the hero's journey but it's also a fun cutting edge fantasy movie. The humor is spot on, with Strange providing much of the one liners and there is just enough chaos to make it an action movie. The action is at times gut twisting with the warping of reality but in a roller coaster kind of way. Some of the magic makes you wonder how and why things couldn't have been different and why some powers work for somethings but are completely forgotten for others, such is the nature of extremely overpowered, deus ex machina style abilities. That said when the powers are in play it's like Inception if everyone was bending realities at the same time. The story was compelling and the climax while big was done not with brawn but with brains and that is what made it worthwhile and refreshing to watch.
The direction was slick and never really lost me in the madness that it sometimes created. There was one scene that struck me as a tad goofy in it's execution but other than that there really wasn't a sour note in the film. Every actor was well chosen, even Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One (who kind of looks like Aang from Last Airbender) made sense as they quickly poke fun at those that may have found her casting white washing. Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius was a kind of standard villain we have seen before but none the less a worthy challenge for someone like Strange who has to work fast in order to defeat such a deadly foe. A sort of means to a mystical end. Chweitel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong and Rachel McAdams round out that cast and each play their roles quite well even if McAdams is a bit underwritten and is a sort of MCU version of a Netflix series character.
(Side Note) for those who have seen Tony Zhou's video on Marvel's uninspiring music this movie doesn't really help to create a theme for the characters. Watching the Wonder Woman trailer before the film for instance has the instantly recognizable guitar riff same goes with the Rogue One trailer including familiar Star Wars themes. I love Michael Giacchino, His work on Lost, Mission Impossible and Pixar films has been great but it seems as though even he hasn't cracked the superhero scoring code for Marvel yet, heck even their new theme written by Giacchino isn't all that memorable.
The inclusion of magic, as well as the warping of time and space is a welcome change to the standard beat em ups Marvel has slowly been growing out of. Things like Guardians, Thor, and Ant-man being bigger risks that they couldn't previously afford now become more sure things for them and more entertaining for us. Doctor Strange firmly plants itself in it's own contained story and that works very much to it's advantage. There are no sequels that are being set up, advancements that need to be in the plot to make the next one work, until the credits where they belong. It was a stand alone origin story that was started a bit slow then ramped up considerably creating a brisk, funny, action packed and engrossing experience. It won't bring you to tears or make you stand up and cheer at the end but you will be very much entertained.