Marvel Studios has taken us on quite a journey since they exploded on the scene and launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Iron Man in 2008 . I don’t think anyone could have predicted how long and amazing the journey would be, or that it would one day cross into the realm of the mystical and magical.
However, that is exactly what they aim to do with Doctor Strange. It was only a couple of years ago that they released Guardians of the Galaxy, and in doing so proved that the world was ready for more than just earthbound heroes on the big screen. Doctor Strange may reside on earth, but he is no where close to being bound on its normal plane of existence. I won’t get in to a long back story of the character. That’s the job of the movie.
I do want to touch on the trailers and teasers leading up to the November 4th release, and my thoughts before viewing it for the first time. I feel like Marvel hit the nail on the head with the marketing campaign for this film. They have successfully teased the big moments of the film, but in no way do I feel trailer fatigue heading into the theater. The trailers are crisp and give a nice snapshot of the character(s). They do this without over-telling the premise of the film. Early reviews paint a clear picture of the film as a straight origin story, and have compared it to Iron Man’s first entry. I certainly hope it can compete with that film’s pacing and story telling as it is in many people’s opinion (mine included) the best on screen adaptation of a comic book character.
After a trip through the cosmos with Guardians of the Galaxy, I am more than ready for Marvel to give us a look into the mystical world of Doctor Strange.
Doctor Strange (2016) – Directed by Scott Derrickson – Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, and Mads Mikkelsen.
There may be spoilers ahead. I will try to keep plot points and story elements to a minimum.
This might be the hardest “after” review that I have written to date which isn’t saying much because I’m only 4 deep. There are many things that I liked about this film, and overall I’d say I enjoyed it. However, there is something amiss here, and I am struggling with what that is. I am having a hard time putting my finger on exactly what I didn’t like about the film. Walking out of the theater I felt a bit empty. Maybe my expectations were too high. My clearest gripe is the rushed pacing with regards to the development of Doctor Strange’s mastery of the mystic arts. The story could have used another 15 minutes or so to give a little more incite in to what made the good Doctor worthy and able to absorb the teaching of the Ancient One. The story was also dry at points, and it was a little paint by numbers mid film. To say it was formulaic would be underselling it.
Visually it was every bit as stunning as expected. I think that it was bit over the top at points most notably in the large New York sequence. Though, I understand the need to knock it out of park with this scene. The CG imagery was a little rubbery at times, but I was very pleased with the way it was blended in with live action. I don’t feel it detracted from the film at all. One thing that did seem to stand out was the dim coloring or lack of brightness. The colors felt very muted and dull throughout a large portion of the movie. The score was also noticeably lacking, and left me feeling underwhelmed in most of the films big moments.
The acting as a whole was solid. A lot of the actors suffered from minimal screen time, and in turn the characters suffered. Mads Mikkelsen maybe more so than anyone else. Benedict Cumberbatch was a good choice for titular role, but at times felt out of character. Tilda Swinton brought a “take it or leave it” performance. The Ancient One could have easily been portrayed by any number of actors with with a weighty screen presence. For me, the real stand out was Chiwetel Ejiofor. He really is amazing, and is, as always, believably sincere in every scene. I for one had a little Serenity flashback moment with his use of the word “purpose” in the film.
Overall I thought the story was a predictable but solid origin. Its a big task for Marvel to bring the magical and mystical to the big screen while keeping a solid link to a cinematic universe that has been heavily grounded in giving practical causation to most of its happenings.