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‘Doctor Strange’ Sets the Bar High for Future MCU Properties

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Movie: Doctor Strange                                             Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Director: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chitwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams

When I walked into the theater on Doctor Strange’s opening night, I expected to be blown away by Marvel’s promise of incredible visuals and performances by its stars. Let me start this review by saying that the studio definitely kept its word and deserves your time and money this November. Although I walked away from the film with a huge grin on my face and excited for future superhero properties, I was also extremely pleased to see that Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange maintained a unique and distinctive identity while staying within the ever-growing, expansive Marvel cinematic universe. This May saw the release of Captain America: Civil War, which earned its place as one of my favorite superhero movies of all time. The film was packed to the brim with some of my favorite characters (The Russo brothers handled Spider-Man perfectly) and filled with epic, large scale battles and an engaging plot. As enjoyable as it was, however, it was nice to be able to watch a Marvel movie this fall that focused on just one character and told a self contained story.

The film tells the story of Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a wealthy neurosurgeon, who must overcome a devastating injury by mastering the mystic arts. Doctor Strange feels very much like the comics it’s based on. The creative special effects are reminiscent of artist Steve Ditko’s work on the series, and the cast does an overall great job of adapting the source material. It’s Cumberbatch’s performance that keeps the audience engaged in between sequences of extra-dimensional combat, however. He manages to portray the arrogance of an overly confident doctor and still remain relatable and interesting as he learns spells and battles magic-wielding villains. He is very much out of his element as he is introduced to new dimensions and powers, which makes the character all the more grounded. Doctor Strange’s supporting cast is fantastic as well. Chitwetel Ejiofor, who plays the fiercely loyal Baron Mordo, complements Cumberbatch’s light-hearted performance as a serious, determined warrior. Rachel McAdams also does a great job as Strange’s love interest/colleague, Christine Palmer.

However, there are a few problems I had with the movie. Some of the classic Marvel cliches are still present. The film’s villain, Kaecilius (played by Mads Mikkelsen), isn’t given enough to do, an issue I’ve had with several other Marvel adaptations like Thor: The Dark World (2013) and Iron Man 2 (2010). Mikkelsen is an excellent actor and effectively plays a menacing sorcerer out for revenge, but he’s unfortunately forgettable when compared to other Marvel villains like Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. Doctor Strange is also overly funny on occasion, an aspect of Marvel movies often criticized by DC fans. Some of the jokes are slightly unnecessary and some feel out of place, especially since Strange is portrayed as more of a serious character in the comics. However, this is an issue that doesn’t take away from the film as a whole.

What Doctor Strange does right, however, it does extremely well. It’s a movie best enjoyed for its mind blowing special effects and creative action, and does an excellent job of taking a step back from the grandiose, interconnected spectacle of other Marvel movies. You don’t have to worry about knowing anything about other MCU films. It’s a movie that anyone can enjoy, and one that isn’t afraid to remove itself from better known characters like Captain America or Iron Man. It’s proud to stand by itself and develop its own identity.

Doctor Strange is one of the better superhero films of the past few years. Scott Derrickson found a way to tell a compelling origin story that, while slightly cliche, feels new and inventive through its use of incredible visual effects. It may have a villain that isn’t given enough to do by the time the credits roll, but this doesn’t take away from the film’s overall experience. Make sure to go see Doctor Strange this fall– It’s one of the best films I’ve seen all year.

My score: 8/10

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‘Doctor Strange’ Sets the Bar High for Future MCU Properties