Doctor Strange (2016) – Film Review


The audience turn-out hasn’t been as phenomenal as I thought it would be, and I honestly don’t know why… With Benedict Cumberbatch taking center stage, a supporting cast full of A-listers that even today’s most greenhorn movie-goer would recognize, it baffles me that a Marvel movie—of all things—wouldn’t sell out at least two to three shows its opening weekend. Still, though, this movie’s garnered almost $100M at the box office, so far—a nearly-2/3 return that, I’m sure, the producers are happy about. But, enough business. Let’s get down to the review…

This is indeed a far departure from anything Marvel has put out, to date. The opening Marvel Studios logo sets the stage, now integrating snippets of the cinematic universe, intercut with the flipping comic pages we’re all used to. If this movie were made in 3D (that’s a thing that people actually used to do, look it up), I might have ventured to put on the glasses. But the effect of the impressive visual graphics isn’t lost by seeing it standard; I got just as lost in the kaleidoscopic visuals without the glasses. Just be warned, however, that it may be a bit much for people with motion sickness or vertigo; the trailers give a decent taste of what can be expected. By far, though, this is the best display of CGI prowess I’ve seen on-screen in recent years—certainly, the most expansive that Marvel’s ever integrated into one of their films.

The movie, itself, also asks greater, wider-reaching questions than any Marvel film that’s come before it. It’s darker, sometimes disturbing, in its questioning of our universe (and the universe we’ve seen in the previous MCU movies). The scope is literally out of this world, and I’m eager to see the effects of this film, going forward with this phase of films we’re in now. With Thanos and the Infinity War coming ever closer, I can only imagine what the ramifications will be of Strange and his comrades defying the very nature of reality.

Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton—all were perfect castings for their respective roles. I know there was a lot of controversy surrounding the white-washing of the Ancient One, but it works (and there’s even a segment in there explaining her origins, if a bit off-handed). Unfortunately, the big bad—the renegade Kaecilius, portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal)—felt more like a pawn than an actual “villain”, my evidence being the rather Lovecraftian reveal in the third act of the film.

The score was unique, very complimentary to the film and the overall tone. It was cohesive, yet still fitting of the Marvel format. There was an enjoyable balance of humor and gravitas, without the result being too outlandish. The story is less about physical strength and technological prowess—as exemplified by the Captain America and Iron Man films—and more about believing in the self and widening one’s horizons. It’s a story about real people with problems, happening within a supernatural setting. The mid- and post-credits scenes set up even more exciting possibilities for the future of the franchise.

Doctor Strange gets a strong *****/ ‘Risk Assessment from me. I’ve never been so wowed by a superhero movie, and I’m excited to see the Sorcerer Supreme return for future cinematic installments.

Next review: Arrival

Written by Evan Kern

Just a twenty-something filmie trudging through adulthood. Taking it day by day, movie by movie. Words are life...

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