Doctor Strange is the latest addition to the Marvel film industry and it stars Bendedict Cumberbatch as the title character. As the film opens he is a brilliant neurosurgeon who has become arrogant, pompous and rather prickly to everyone around him, with the exception of Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), a fellow doctor at the hospital. They have a playful bantered relationship and may even be attracted to each other. She is more down to Earth while Doctor Strange lives life in the fast lane, so to speak. He has a God complex, that is until he is in a horrific car accident in which his hands, among other extremities, are horribly crushed. They are able to piece his hands back together, but now his hands shake uncontrollably. No more operating, with hands like that. He tries certain treatments to no avail, that is until he learns of a far east remedy that takes him to the rooftop of the world, Nepal.
Upon arriving, Doctor Strange meets The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor). They explain there is a whole new world out there that can heal Doctor Strange but it will take practice and strong discipline to achieve the results he wants. There is also the light and the dark forces that battle in other dimensions that can make or break civilization and restore Doctor Strange’s hands back to normal. Throw in Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) and his goon squad and we have our good versus bad, light versus dark superhero film. This is an origins story so every element of this story is explained being the first film of this franchise. It is good to know that before you go to see this film.
This film is chock full of visual splendor and is beautifully shot. Scott Derrickson directs Doctor Strange with visual flair and lots of energy. The script, penned by Derrickson, Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill is an intelligent mix of philosophy, far east mystic arts and medicines and humor. The action is fun, exciting and is shot at dizzying speed. Buildings fold, dimensions collide all while people are fighting for survival, not just their own but humanity. The problem I had with this film is that there is way too much exposition and it kept taking me out of the film. There is so much explanation of what is going on, I kept wanting to fast forward through some of it. There are a couple of training montages which I feared would be a big part of the film, but fortunately they are well cut and do not overstay their welcome. Sorry, but if I have to sit through another training montage, I think I will plunge a straw into my eyes.
Still, the acting is solid by everyone in this film. Some characters are not really given much to do, most notably Rachel McAdams who is such a lively actress, she is relegated to being simply, the girl. There is a relationship hinted at but not much else happens with her, which is a shame. Mads Mikkelsen is intimidating enough but he really does not have that much to do except pop up at times when some action is needed. Tilda Swinton and Chiwetel Ejiofor are solid, though and have some meaty roles which brings me to Benedict Cumberbatch. He is phenomenal, simply put. He shoulders a big part of this film and even when he is spouting off some mumbo jumbo about inter dimensional time shifting, he does so with grace and a slight twist of humor. I also enjoyed Benedict Wong as the monastery’s head librarian. The back and forth between Wong and Doctor Strange is cleverly written and Michael Giacchino’s score is lushly effective.
Doctor Strange is far from perfect but most of it works. The ending is a bit much and in addition to the heavy exposition, this is a trippy, psychedelic lights and lazer show and most of it is fun to watch. You should know before going into this film that Doctor Strange is not like the other Marvel films. This is more story driven and features a little less of the over the top action from the Avenger series, Deadpool and Captain America. While those are excellent films in their own right, Doctor Strange is more cerebral and thoughtful in its presentation. So if you think this is a big roller coaster ride, it is not exactly like that. Like it or not, Doctor Strange, despite its drawbacks, is fun and as long as you know what to expect. If that is not a problem for you, then the Doctor is in. There are two post credit sequences so stick around after the credits roll.
Doctor Strange – ***1/2 out of 5
Doctor Strange – Rated PG-13 for language, violence, some brief gore and adult situations
Doctor Strange – Run Time is 120 minutes.
Doctor Strange is now playing in theaters. Check your local listings for times and locations.