I am going to start this Doctor Strange review talking about food. Comfort food, in fact. Food that you know exactly what you will get, tastes good every time, might not be the healthiest but it leaves you recalling warm memories. The reason I bring this up? Because Marvel Studios has become the comfort food of the new millennium. This is not a knock on the studio, in fact it’s quite a compliment because delivering consistent quality is one of the most difficult things to do. I say all of that to say, in many ways, Doctor Strange is just another in a long line of the comfort food Marvel Studios delivers to audiences. We know what we’re getting when we watch a film released by them. However, this doesn’t mean that they can rest on their laurels and Doctor Strange is anything but basic, with dazzling visuals and compelling acting that elevate it to among Marvel’s best.
And that praise is coming from someone who was incredibly skeptical of this whole enterprise. Benedict Cumberbatch, one of the actors who keeps popping up in franchises, seemed an uninspired choice for the role. Tilda Swinton seemed inspired, but all that history with the Ancient One rendered the excitement almost null, and director Scott Derickson hasn’t made much that I’ve liked. However, all of these elements ended up working so well. Benedict was able to channel his character’s arrogance (he’s like Tony Stark 2.0) and wrap it around a core desire to help people. He was never afraid to let the character be “unlikable” but that in turn helped us care about the character’s journey and how he overcomes obstacles. Tilda’s Celtic Ancient One provides a balancing presence to the proceedings. The movie probabbly belongs the most to Derrickson and his team of VFX artists who craft come of the coolest and most awesome action sequences that you’ll have a chance to see. It’s really nice to see that Scott could find his own cinematic identity even as he works within the established Marvel visual aesthetic. Those twisty battles (you MUST see this in 3D) are certainly something to behold.
If I had any bone to pick with the film is that its internal logic regarding the motivations of Mads Mikkelson and Tilda’s characters sometimes don’t line up as well as the film wants. These two are intertwined (she was his teacher) and yet never really fully explored in the way that the other relationships are. However, I think the movie recovers from this by continually throwing us into Doctor Strange’s perspective and give the narrative enough movement to overcome the issues.