Film Review: Doctor Strange

When it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we’ve grown accustomed to a certain heightened world. Yes it’s filled with superhuman beings, dancing trees and futuristic scientific and technological advances, but everything still feels grounded in this reality. Until now. Now, things have changed. Now, things are strange.

To put it simply, Doctor Strange isn’t quite like anything we’ve experienced in the MCU so far. We’ve scratched the surface of the mystical with Scarlet Witch’s inclusion in the Avengers, but her powers hardly prepare the viewer for the spells Doctor Strange has at his disposal. With the skilled hand gestures of a Bollywood dancer, Strange is capable of conjuring objects and teleportation portals, manipulating time, astral projection, entering mirror worlds, etc., and it still feels like there’s far more to come.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. After all, this is an origin story. In the beginning there isn’t magic, there’s just Doctor Strange, a surgeon with a level of genius and talent that would likely cause Tony Stark to break out the measuring stick. It’s just a shame Strange doesn’t have comparable levels of charisma to help offset the arrogance. Personality wise Strange is low on the list of likable heroes in this ever growing universe. He makes Rachel McAdams cry, for starters, and that’s hard to come back from. Yet even as it’s initially a challenge to sympathize with Strange as he desperately tries to recover from a horrible accident that sends him down this path, it’s easy to recognize that he’s human. And thus, you want him to succeed.

Added bonus: success for him means spending time with the always perfect Tilda Swinton, Aladdin’s magic carpet turned cape, and jaw dropping levels of mesmerizing CGI. Surgeon Strange is cool and all, but Sorcerer Strange is even better.

There’s only one way to describe the CGI in Doctor Strange: dear God. In more words, it’s what I’d imagine the child of a kaleidoscope and M.C. Escher to be like had it grown up on a steady diet of crack and Inception (that would definitely explain all the rotating hallway fight sequences, anyway). And that’s not even considering the “I Am the Walrus” moment that introduces Strange to the mystical realm in the first place. It’s ridiculous and overwhelming, and it’s also incredible. Just don’t be surprised if you vomit a little.

In the end it’s unclear exactly how Stephen will fit in with the rest of the heroes of the Marvel universe, but as far as his solo debut is concerned: something strange is exactly what the doctor ordered.

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