Marvel is still killing the game. So this is about a highly successful neurosurgeon named Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). He gets into a car accident that causes him to suffer severe nerve damage in his hands, rendering him unable to continue his career. After a number of unsuccessful experimental surgeries, he travels to Nepal as a last ditch effort, as there is someone there who healed a hopeless case. He then meets The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) who shows him that his perception on life has been very limited… until now. I actually am very familiar with the writer of this, C. Robert Cargill. I followed him back when he was a humble film critic, and he was actually a huge inspiration for me to do exactly what I am doing now. I’m very happy to see that he has come up and made it in the world, and he must be proud to put his name on this movie, because it succeeds on a number of different levels.
And once you start getting that Disney money, you’re set for life.
Now this is significantly different from anything that Marvel has attempted to do before, largely because we are breaking into the realm of magic. Sure, Thor has Norse mythology behind it, but it is still not spell casting, which this totally is. I’m not familiar with Doctor Strange at all, and Marvel has reached the point in their universe building where the minor characters are getting their own movies. It’s an origin story to be sure, and those usually make for the best superhero movies. It’s also very contained; there are just a small handful of offhanded references tying this in to rest of Marvel, but that’s about it. One of the reasons why Guardians of the Galaxy is so stellar is due to the fact that it is so standalone, and I don’t want to jump the gun and say that this is the best Marvel movie, but it is up there, it really is. Guardians and The Winter Soldier are pretty hard to touch, but this serves as a great introduction to this character, and it is just a well told story, regardless.
And you know the vast amount of the movie going public doesn’t know anything about this character, so this is exactly the movie that it needs to be.
Doctor Strange is easy to connect with because you have an arrogant protagonist who has to humble himself in order to further himself as a person. Being that we are being introduced to magic, there is a hefty amount of exposition, but there are a lot of well placed jokes along the way that keep you going. Another beloved movie that has a ton of exposition is Inception, and while that relies almost exclusively on special effects to make you want to watch it a second time, there is so much humor injected into Doctor Strange that I’m actually really excited for the next time I get to watch it. I also bring up Inception because they have that city-folding-in-on-itself effect that is shown in the trailer that will surely make you connect the two films, and it really just amps it up to eleven and just goes for it. The special effects are impressive, and it is not afraid to get trippy in the best way possible. Some of the hand to hand combat is filmed a little too tightly for my taste, but that is really just a small nitpick in a wonderful addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Doctor Strange (2016) ****
– Critic for Hire
Want to see where this fell in my list of best films of the 2016? See for yourself here.