We have seen gods, monsters, robots, superheroes, “mutants” and even a radioactive human-spider. Marvel Studios has shown us everything that makes a good comic book movie, except for one thing: magic. With Marvel Studio’s 14th film the world now meets the universe of magic with The Sorcerer Supreme himself, Doctor Strange.
Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a brilliant neurosurgeon, but he’s a bit of a douche, seeing himself as above everyone around him. After a fatal car accident leaves his hands with so much nerve damage he’ll never be able to practice medicine again, he’s forced on a search for a mystical/miracle cure. He finds himself in Kathmandu, Nepal where he meets the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who take him in and begin to train him in the mystical arts.
Fallen student Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) starts causing trouble for the ancient order that Strange finds himself a part of. The order exists to protect the earth from otherworldly dimensions that would feast on life itself, including one particularly powerful threat, Dormammu, who Kaecilius is trying to summon to our world. Soon Mordo and Doctor Strange find themselves in a full on mystical journey down the rabbit hole to stop Kaecilius and save the earth.
It’s getting harder and harder to review the Marvel Studios films, because frankly, they all are good. Of course there are degrees in quality of good, but generally all their films have been fun, adventure/action packed, and show us why these characters stand the test of time. Here is another great example of that. Doctor Strange is wonderful. From start to finish Kevin Feige and director Scott Derrickson have made one hell of a great movie.
We’re entering a whole new level in the Marvel Universe this time: magic. It’s kind of a hard sell to audiences. It’s easy to explain the magic in Thor: it’s space magic, which is code for alien tech. But here it’s straight up spell casting, book reading and conjuring. And Marvel did what they do best, streamlining the story to make it easy for all to understand. And having Cumberbatch as your leading hero doesn’t hurt the movie either.
What is truly remarkable about the film is the way it was actually filmed. A lot of time, detail, and care went into making this movie look and feel just like the comic from the 1970s when Doctor Strange was all about being a trippy, psychedelic experience mixed with awesome Eastern mysticism. And the movie manages to nail that feeling amazingly, with how the world bends around the actors, or watching Strange fall deeper and deeper into the vast, spinning, vertigo-causing dimensional space known as the astral plane. Some of the best visual effects are in these scenes and they make for one hell of ride in 3D. Then add in the amazing score by Oscar wining Michael Giacchino, which is so heavily influenced by the 70s Psychedelic rock, giving it a feeling of psychedelic culture with ranges of Indian music and other eastern themes, and you’ll swear you’re on something during the movie.
The movie is very basic as far at the heroes’ journey, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. It’s very much like Iron Man, except with magic. Cumberbatch does an amazing job and really makes you believe he is The Sorcerer Supreme. Swinton is equally amazing and is such a badass as the Ancient One. Rachel McAdams is good, not great. Lets be honest, she’s barely in it. Mads Mikkelsen is wonderful as the villain Kaecilius. You understand what he wants and his needs early on in the film and he stays pretty consistent throughout. He’s not the best Marvel villain, but he’s does a pretty good job at trying.
Strange has two teachers that become his friends: Master Wong, played Benedict Wong, and Mordo, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. Both are great and bring their talent to a table filled with incredible talent already. They shone above all. You see the beginning of a friendship between Wong and Strange: as fans know, they become good friends and partners in protecting the world from evil. On the same coin, but on a different side, is Mordo. A teacher to Strange, maybe even a mentor, but a jealous mentor. You see their friendship and how easily it can be soured. As people know, Mordo is one of Doctor Strange’s oldest villains, and here we plant the seed of that story. Some of the best elements of the movie come from these three on screen together.
The special effects are top notch. But really, wouldn’t they be? Everything looks great. The moving and bending of the world around the actors looks so real you will get dizzy. The conjuring of weapons, and each characters has their own design, looks awesome. The Cloak of Levitation looks brilliant, either on Strange or when it’s just floating alongside. Sometimes CGI capes can look really bad, but not here. This cape is alive and is a character in its own way.
Overall, Doctor Strange is fantastic, another great movie in the Marvel Studios pantheon of great films. Knowing that we’re going to see Strange again in Avengers, Thor, and his own squeal is incredible. This is a world I want to spend more time in. They crafted a new world, in a world we already know and love. This is how you make magic work.