Now there was an attempt to bring Doctor Strange into the world of film in 1978 with the TV movie Dr Strange – but from what I’ve been told the less said about it the better (I haven’t seen it myself so only have the word of others to go by). Thankfully, with the increase in technology, Doctor Strange can finally be given the treatment it deserves.
The MCU has been on top form with their last few films and one might wonder if they are going to run out of steam. Well, if they are, it is NOT with this film. Doctor Strange is, in my opinion, one of the best films Marvel has ever produced. In fact I would say that this film is on par with Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers in how awesome it is!
Much like the comic, the film follows Stephen Strange, a gifted – yet arrogant – neurosurgeon, who loses his surgeons touch after being in a car accident. With medical science finding no cure, he travels to Nepal to heal himself, learning magic under the tutelage of The Ancient one and Mordo (who is actually a hero in this film. To a point. I’ll get to that). However, he finds himself in a battle with rogue wizard Kaecilius, who is trying to bring the evil Dormammu to Earth. Cue comic book style action!
First of all I have to say the special effects are AMAZING! The world twists and turns as reality is warped and the world is moulded into strange new terrains. Not since Inception or The Matrix have I been so blown away by special effects. It’s extremely trippy – and dare I say disturbing in places. Normally I don’t focus on the special effects too much as I believe they shouldn’t be the main focus of a film. Luckily, these effects compliment the movie without taking away too much of the human element.
Casting wise, you are in good hands here. Every part is played by such skilled actors that even if the script is bad (which it isn’t) you will still have fun watching it. Benedict Cumberbatch is perfect as Stephen Strange. Every single line of dialogue is pitched perfect and he never puts a foot wrong. You both hate Strange for his arrogance and like him for his heart and comedic value. I would say that this is the most perfect casting choice for any superhero ever – and that goes alongside Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.
Tilda Swinton plays The Ancient One – in a move that caused a lot of controversy and was called out for “white-washing”, which the director himself says he is guilty of. However, in his defence, he stated that his choice for Tilda was that he wanted to avoid the “Asian Stereotype” that could have happened if he cast an Asian actor. Personally, I think he was damned no matter what he did, so I’m gonna give him a pass. Besides, you had a pretty diverse cast here I think. Anyway, I’ve gone off topic. I actually liked Swinton in this role. She’s always incredible to watch as she portrays both male and female tendencies in this role, making for an interesting character. She is pretty much the Obi-Wan to Stephen Strange’s Luke Skywalker, but she does the role very well.
She’s joined by one of my favourite actors as well. Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays Karl Mordo. Interestingly enough, whilst Mordo (or Baron Mordo) is a villain in the comics, here he plays something of an ally to Strange. Which makes sense as Mordo has teamed up with Strange before in the comics. Mordo goes through an interesting character arc as he is an old school warrior that believes in the old ways. But by the end his faith is tested and this sets him on a darker path. The after credits teaser hints that he will become a villain like the comics. I’d be happy to see Mordo in more films – I reckon he could become a villain that’s every bit as iconic as Loki in the MCU. Plus, Chiwetel is a joy to watch and (as evidenced by his role in Serenity) plays a fantastic villain.
Mads Mikkelsen (of Hannibal fame) plays the villain Kaecilius – who I have never heard of I must admit and had to read up on him prior to this. As it turns out, the comic character is more of a background role and this film version is a combination of various other villains. Here he is a servant of Dormammu – who has turned his back on The Ancient One and believes what he is doing is “the greater good”. Whilst I found his motivations slightly weak, Mads at least had fun with the role. He was neither too evil nor too sympathetic, but just the right balance. Although, he did seem more like a “filler” villain at times, building up to Dormammu – who we barely get to see.
Benedict Wong is also worth mentioning as Wong, the sidekick of Doctor Strange. Benedict plays him extremely stoic and tough – but he has a few moments of comedy. He’s mostly there for exposition, but he gets in a few badass moments.
The story is pretty much what you expect from a Marvel film. Good guy gets powers and must defeat bad guy. Nothing really original here – but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. The special effects and dream inspiring scenery keep you entertained and wondering what magical effects we might see next. Plus it’s not all serious – there are a lot of moments of humour in it as well, as you’d expect from a Marvel film. The funniest moment for me is when Mordo gives Strange a parchment with what seems like a magical spell (Shamballa, as a nod to the comics) and he says it’s the wifi password, replying “We’re not savages”. Just the idea of an ancient monastery having wifi is hilarious. There’s also a bit where Wong listens to Beyonce (don’t ask) which I found funny.
I guess my only MINOR complaint of the film in how easily it’s resolved. Plus, I do feel that they could have included Dormammu a bit more, considering how much of a threat he is in the comics. But that would just be nickpicking. The two main highlights for me in this film were learning that the Eye of Agamoto (one of Strange’s most powerful items) is an Infinity Stone, further leading towards the Infinity Wars, and the post credits scene that hinted towards a Doctor Strange/Thor team up (and maybe a chance of seeing Loki again squeal!)
All in all this was an amazing film. Once again, Marvel proves that it’s best films are the ones that include the lesser known characters. With Doctor Strange’s place in the MCU firmly established, it’ll be fun to see where they go from here. This, along with Civil War, proves that Marvel won’t be running out of steam anytime soon. DC will need to do some serious catching up movie wise!
Doctor Strange gets a magical 5 out of five!
Believe it or not, there is ANOTHER Doctor Strange film set in the animated Marvel universe that came out in 2007. Titled Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme, it follows a similar plot to Doctor Strange, but has a few twists to it. It’s a really good film and worth watching if you’re a fan of the character. You can pick this up on DVD quite easily.