After Captain America: Civil War blew into theaters earlier this year and closed out the third phase of Marvel’s cinematic universe, we kick off a brand new phase with one of the most pivotal heroes in the comic company’s history, Doctor Strange. Yes, some of us are still buzzing about that insanely great airport battle scene in Civil War but it’s about damn time that the eventual Sorceror Supreme made his way to the big screen. You see, Doctor Strange is actually part of yours truly’s comic book reader origin. As a child, I went with my family on a road trip and was asked to pick a few comics up for reading material on the way from those old fashioned shopping store spindle racks. The books I grabbed were Daredevil, now a kickass television series on Netflix, and Doctor Strange. Odd as it sounds, I have a lot invested in seeing this character done correctly.
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role, the film follows Stephen Strange, a cocky and self-absorbed surgeon who just happens to be the best at what he does. After an unfortunate incident of distracted driving, Strange winds up in the hospital, his hands crushed horribly, destroying his ability to operate. Now a literally broken man, he tries every experimental surgery to no avail. Fate seems to intervene when he comes across a paralyzed man who found the ability to walk again. This leads him to Kathmandu where he meets The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), who can channel the mind and the spirit to make anything possible. Strange is taught by her in the hopes of regaining his surgeon’s touch but things are interrupted when a former pupil of The Ancient One sets plans in motion to destroy Earth.
As it is with all the Marvel Studios films, this film is big, bright and wholly entertaining. Cumberbatch is a welcome addition to the Marvel Universe and we’re totally chomping at the bit for him to join the other Avengers for a massive eventual showdown with big universal baddie, Thanos. Everything else in the Doctor Strange realm is pitch perfect too. Swinton is arguably one of the best parts in this film and Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Baron Mordo and Benedict Wong as, fittingly, Wong is the cherry on the sundae. The battles are mind-blowing, as is the spiritual and mirror realm which have an incredible hallucinatory feel to them that you will never be high enough or sober enough to take it all in, adding to the rewatch value.
Where this film starts to lose you is with the writing, the development and the same Hollywood tropes that usually do nothing but bring the narrative crashing down to the lowest common denominator. Corny moments, fast forwarding through exposition and shoehorning of a romantic plot plagues Doctor Strange throughout and, like usual in a lot of these Marvel single character films, we have a villain that is pretty much inconsequential and answers to a higher being, acting as a patsy the entire time. This is something Feige needs to get away from as the head of these films, although I do applaud him for giving these small filmmakers, like Strange’s Scott Derrickson, room to operate with a massive budget. At the end of it all, Doctor Strange is one of the lesser films in this series, ranking above Thor: The Dark World and Iron Man 2 but below Ant-Man. 3/5