a critiQal film review Doctor Strange (2016)

Plot: Talented neurosurgeon Doctor Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch), after a tragic car accident, must put ego aside and learn the secrets of a hidden world of mysticism and alternate dimensions. Based in New York City’s Greenwich Village, Doctor Strange must act as an intermediary between the real world and what lies beyond, utilizing a vast array of metaphysical abilities and artifacts to protect the universe.

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Whenever Marvel comes out with a new film, it’s a given that I’m going to have to check it out at some point. With their slew of successes, the hits just seem to keep on coming, so why miss one along the way? So, when Doctor Strange arrived on the scene, I knew I was going to have to give it a shot in the near future. Thankfully, I was able to grab a copy for cheap, and settled down to take in Marvel’s latest.

Benedict Cumberbatch, who has skyrocketed to stardom lately thanks to his inspired performance as the title character in “Sherlock” (TV), is a good choice to play Dr. Stephen Strange. Playing a brash, egotistical doctor actually isn’t much of a stretch from his “Sherlock” (TV) character, and he makes the transfer easily. After a car crash destroys his ability to play God in the surgical theater, he breaks down quite a bit, before transitioning into a mystical arts practitioner. With Cumberbatch at the helm, that transition is easily conveyed, and the viewer is drawn quickly to this Dr. Strange.

Thankfully, Cumberbatch is just one of the solid performances in Doctor Strange. Everyone steps up to the plate in this film. From a standout performance by mystical guru Tilda Swinton (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)) to the evil villain personified by Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale (2006)), the whole cast does a great job of bringing their best acting to the table. Even more minor characters, like Rachel McAdams (The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009)), do a decent job in their smaller roles.

It’s this strong acting base that prevents Doctor Strange from being lost among a dazzling display of special effects. With a plot that involves the main character “opening his inner eye” to see the mystical around him, Doctor Strange could easily have drowned in special effects. Thankfully, the effects, while dazzling, don’t overpower the strong base the film has set up, and the viewer will still be able to – and want to – follow along with the storyline.

And those effects are pretty darn dazzling. From a car crash that makes the great train crash of The Fugitive (1993) look dull to outdoing Inception (2010) with it’s twisting city streets, Doctor Strange is full of mind-blowing special effects. It’s actually pretty amazing the film manages to keep the viewer interested in the storyline amid all of this dazzle, but it does.

All in all, Doctor Strange is just darn good. While that doesn’t seem like much of a surprise these days, the idea of bringing a mystical character like this to life prior to the success of Iron Man (2008) was nothing more than a pipe dream. It’s nice to see that, no matter what characters Marvel is bringing to the screen these days, they are still aiming at solid acting and plot, first and foremost. Unlike their DC counterparts, who seem to be focused more on special effects first, with acting and (especially) plot a distant second and third, Marvel has discovered the formula for making a good superhero pic.

Will we eventually get tired of superhero pics? Probably. But, with Marvel still putting acting and plot at the forefront, that time may still be long in the future.

Go check out Doctor Strange if you haven’t already. It’s another feather in Marvel’s cap, and a movie you won’t want to miss.

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