Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams
Director: Scott Derrickson
Running Time: 115 mins
Doctor Strange is an American film about a brilliant but arrogant neurosurgeon whose talent is robbed after he is badly injured in an accident. However, upon learning of a way to fully heal himself, he journeys to become part of a spiritual group, a group that turns out to have deep connections to the mystic arts.
As has now been proven time and again, Marvel are able to apply their formula to any sort of comic book story and make it hugely entertaining. Doctor Strange is no exception, and although it’s by no means a classic of the MCU, it offers up both an interesting story and some entertaining action and adventure, complete with excellent performances across the board.
One of the things that really impressed me about this film, however, was that it wasn’t entirely formulaic. Its first act is particularly different to the majority of the MCU, and as a result the most engrossing part of this whole film. Coming across as somewhat of a real-life drama as we see Doctor Strange in his environment as an ingenious surgeon, albeit as arrogant as can be, the film’s calm and measured atmosphere made for a fascinating build-up in a way that we don’t really see in most superhero movies.
What’s more is that the introduction to the mystical world of magic for the first time in the MCU is done very well. Whilst all of the mystical mumbo-jumbo that’s thrown around is beyond comprehension, I found watching Strange learn all about a new type of superpower that we haven’t seen yet from the franchise properly entertaining, and the continued focus on his story, rather than breaking away to some underwhelming villain, was another strong element of the first act.
However, the problems with the film come in the second and third acts. On the whole, Doctor Strange does its job very well as an entertaining action movie, keeping me hooked and having fun with the sort of easy-going and light-hearted superhero flick that Marvel are so good at.
Despite that, I can’t help but feel that there was some more to come out of Doctor Strange. Its first act shows that there are some fascinating characters and ideas floating around, but they’re not really utilised later on, being exchanged for big-budget superhero action.
What’s more is that the action sequences are a little overblown. The idea of complex and mind-bending visuals may fit with the film’s focus on magic, but the action scenes here are almost blinding when it comes to CGI. Whether it’s the impressive but garish Inception-esque building manipulation or 2001-esque space sequences, I found myself less able to enjoy the stakes of the action due to the distracting nature of the visuals, something that could, and most probably should, have been toned down significantly.
On the whole, the final act doesn’t deliver the same sort of intrigue that the first act managed, leaving me with the impression that Doctor Strange is a fun film, but nothing on the level of some of Marvel’s more intelligent and gripping outings, in particular Civil War.
Finally, the one thing about Doctor Strange that is consistently brilliant from start to finish is the performances. In the main role, Benedict Cumberbatch is absolutely fantastic, pulling off the pompous but brilliant doctor perfectly early on, whilst also proving himself as an unexpectedly impressive action protagonist.
Alongside Cumberbatch, there aren’t too many other characters that get much of a chance to shine as much. However, the likes of Tilda Swinton and even Benedict Wong in a smaller role gave some memorable performances, and that added to the film’s entertainment value beyond watching Cumberbatch do magic.
Overall, I had a lot of fun with Doctor Strange. Whilst it’s by no means Marvel’s most original or intelligent work, it combines an impressively intriguing opening act with a fun-loving and fantastical atmosphere later on to make for a properly entertaining blockbuster experience, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.7.