Put on your 3D glasses and prepare for wand-less magic, ’cause it’s time for Doctor Strange! Roughly the 200th entry in the Marvel franchise, this time it’s British Cumberbatch starring as that superhero you never heard about. Surprisingly (and unfortunately), Benedict as Dr. Strange puts on a sometimes-strained American accent, vs. his beloved British one. Even more surprising (for me) is that Doctor Strange is a solidly entertaining movie that makes some bold creative moves- moves that pay off.
To get the obvious point out of the way, yes, hopefully the creators sent a nice thank-you note to Inception. If bending buildings and multiple realities didn’t trigger any memories, you probably never saw that Nolan film. However, Strange rides the crazy train a few more stops with the visual insanity. Taking a queue from Ant Man‘s other dimension, Stephen Strange teleports and travels through multiple universes filled with randomness and tripiness. The hands. Oh, the hands! Sparking portals, dark dimensions, and weapons pulled out of thin air made this my favorite 3-D movie to come out in a long time.
Besides Benedict, the highlight for me was Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One (which by the way, should not be a name you give to a woman). She brought a character who was unassuming but confident, and serious with an ever-present under layer of humor. It’s a nuanced performance that stands out in a movie of big, big villains and forgettable girlfriends. Speaking of villains, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), though played by a fine villain actor, is here simply an average bad guy, which makes him one of the top 3 villains in the Marvel movie universe. If we had maybe a few more minutes of screentime with him, and maybe a bit more clarification on his motives, this could have gone from a good movie to a great one.
Like most of you, I had little to no previous knowledge about the comic series of Doctor Strange, but this thankfully was not a stumbling block. I felt like I was keeping up, and even when things got really weird, I could just watch the pretty things fly by in 3D. It also played out like a normal superhero origins movie at its core (complete with training montage), but was mixed with enough acting and writing talent to keep me entertained.
Altogether, for me Doctor Strange was one of the stronger standalone Marvel movies. Like Guardians of the Galaxy, it didn’t bend over backwards to advertise every other Marvel film, and it bucked a bit of their normal story formula, focusing instead on being its own movie. Heck, they even rebuild the city in the climactic fight instead of tearing it down. However, it maintains the humor, action, and world-building prowess of the Marvel film universe, and proves that there’s still magic up their sleeve (har! har!).