Marvel Continues Their Brand Of Excellence With The Mystifying ‘Doctor Strange’

Musa Tariq and Divij Mahajan

Marvel yet again hits home run with its’ impressive new solo title ‘Doctor Strange’, once more bringing an obscure character of the Marvel canon to the movie screen. Marvel Studios has little to prove at this point, pumping out quality film after quality film, including this year’s massive effort ‘Civil War’. It’s quite astonishing that Marvel can’t put out what could truly be considered a flop or an outright awful film. Doctor Strange exemplifies how far the Marvel Cinematic Universe has come, taking relatively lesser-known characters of the Marvel canon such as the Guardians Of The Galaxy, Ant-Man, and now Doctor Strange, and catapulting them to such a degree of popularity. Marvel’s consistency is impressive, simply put.

           Doctor Strange stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the film’s namesake, as an arrogant and wealthy surgeon who loses the ability to use his hands after a horrifying car accident. When science and medicine fails him, he turns to the powers of magic and becomes a master of the mystic arts. He embarks on an adventure that may well end his life, in order to protect the universe from the malevolent plans of the powerful villain Kaecilius and his zealots. It is a bona fide Superhero origin story, albeit with unique and fresh aspects. However, the plot can’t help but feel familiar; it contains all the tropes and stereotypes that are often placed upon Marvel films, but that may well be what keeps many coming back for more. The humor, the quips, the structure, plot and such borrow from the successful Marvel Studios formula. There is an underlying sense of familiarity, though it does not detract from the film that much, as it has plenty of originality and innovation to keep it from being tedious or unauthentic.

           The film boasts very strong performances from the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Swanson’s Ancient One is a character in the film that invokes awe, mystery, and respect. She presents herself with a strength and mystique that makes her character all the more intriguing. Ejiofor plays Baron Mordo, a close disciple of the Ancient One’s who helps train Stephen Strange and eventually befriends him. He has a kindness and ingenuity to him that motivates his unwavering morality throughout the film. That changes throughout the course of the movie, but one can witness that for themselves. Cumberbatch’s performance answers the question of ‘who will fill the void that will be left by Robert Downey Jr. when he ends his iconic run as Iron Man?’ Stephen Strange is cocky, quippy, and endearing. Much like Downey’s character, his character matures and becomes a more humble figure, yet still retains his undeniably entertaining qualities. Benedict Cumberbatch’s standout performance in Doctor Strange is reminiscent of his performance in the BBC hit show ‘Sherlock’. In their respective worlds, Stephen Strange and Sherlock Holmes both exude intellect and bravado. Cumberbatch’s acting chops seen in ‘Sherlock’ are definitely carried over to some capacity in Doctor Strange. Cumberbatch’s introduction into the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) is quite the entrance, indeed. Rachel McAdam’s Christine Palmer, a fellow Surgeon of and love interest to Doctor Strange, is a character that is likable and interesting enough to introduce in the film, but she serves little purpose to the plot and is simply a background character. Perhaps her role as the ‘Night Nurse’ in Marvel comic lore is something to note. How does Mads Mikkelsen’s Kaecilius as the main antagonist in this film stand up? It is a good performance from a talented actor, but it highlights a major problem among the MCU films: forgettable villains. Marvel seems to have a knack for creating forgettable and largely unimportant adversaries in many of its films, and Kaecilius is no different. His purpose in the film is relegated to bringing forth a far more interesting adversary; but if you want to find out, it is optimal to go see it for yourself. Overall, there is still a strong enough cast of well-written characters that keeps the movie interesting.

          One cannot speak of the film without touching on its absolutely brilliant special effects. As one who is a huge fan of the Doctor Strange comics, I have nothing but praise for the remarkable visual effects. One could say they are slightly reminiscent of Inception, but they complement the film in a very different way. For one, they are a lot more psychedelic and over the top than Inception ever was; but enough on that. The effects weave and paint images that are seemingly ripped straight out of the pages of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s original 60’s Doctor Strange comic books. They are awe-inspiring and sometimes beyond comprehension in their magnitude. There is one scene in particular that is worth the ticket price alone. When Strange meets the Ancient One for the first time, he hostilely question and berates her on the existence of mystic arts that she reveals to him,  and she sends him on a dizzying journey across time and space, all while delivering an absolutely brilliant monologue. It is a scene that is visually overwhelming: a overload of intensity, wonder, and fear. It is highly recommended, if possible, to view the film in 3D. The visual effects aren’t done 100% justice unless viewed in that setting; it elevates the images to new heights and thrills and enhances the viewing experience. Even without 3D, however, the movie is nonetheless stunning in the effects department. The film is so visually beautiful and satisfying, one may forget the Marvel brand for a moment.
       Overall, Doctor Strange is an excellent addition to the ongoing Marvel Cinematic Universe, and proves Marvel’s knack for consistency and taking risks. It adds a new element to the MCU; one of mysticism and psychedelia, all while being comfortable addition. The film has its flaws, but it is still a solid entry. The future still holds much promise from the Superhero genre of films, and Doctor Strange is definitely helping to further its’ endeavors.