Doctor Strange is directed by Scott Derrickson and stars Benedict Cumberbatch (also known as Cumberbleach, Benadryl Cumquat, so on and so forth), Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAadams, and Tilda Swinton. It is the story of an arrogant neurosurgeon whose life is change when he gets into (as the MPAA rating calls it) an intense car accident, which ruins his hands to a point where he can no longer use them for work. Which is a big problem because he’s a doctor (hence the name). So he turns to mystic arts to help him out. And there you go, Marvel movie. Our writers are Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson, and C. Robert Cargill, with our composer is Michael Giacchino, which was a surprise to me, we’ll talk about him.
If there is one thing Marvel knows how to do very well, it’s make a good trailer. Every MCU (short for Marvel Cinematic Universe, if you didn’t know) trailer that I’ve seen has always made me hyped for its release, even if I ended up not liking it (*cough* Thor). And Doctor Strange was no exception. Its trailers made it look like a hybrid of Nolan’s Inception put on an LSD trip to “open up its mind” if you know what I mean. And I will give the movie this right off the bat, its CGI work is top notch, I’ll talk about its visuals later, but the CGI just in general is great.
Our boy, Scoobington Wibblesnatch, did take some time to get used to because of his American accent here. It was a little jarring, especially after coming from basically anything else he’s done. But Cumberbleach does a good job and it didn’t take long for me to get used to it. He really looks the part (but what do I know, I’ve never read the comics). I think he does a great job, but I would say that the comedic timing of Blendy Pins Cucumberman could use a little work. It’s an MCU title, so we always have that MCU humor. And being that Breadstick Cucumber works best with sarcastic humor, I feel, there are times where I didn’t think he was very funny here. And he is trying to play an awkward guy, so I can kinda see why it came off as…well off. But regardless, he was still good.
Everyone is good in this movie, there’s hardly ever a bad performance in MCU movies anyways, so this really shouldn’t be a surprise. Rachel McAdams is no exception here, she does do a good job. It’s just there’s really only 2 or 3 scenes that Rachel McAdams and Benediction Comeback have together in the 1st act before the story really gets started. And I don’t really feel the relationship, the movie doesn’t take its time to build it for me to care. To their credit the movie doesn’t use the relationship as a big crutch, I just wish they used it to their advantage for the story. And after the 1st act, Rachel’s character ends up becoming a plot device, so that’s a thing. She’s really only on-screen when Benefit Cimpatch needs her.
But just because the actors did a good job, doesn’t stray away from the fact that the characters in the film are pretty shallow. It fleshes them out, sure, but when we get into layers or some complexity, Marvel shies away from it. Both in it’s the characters, and it’s storytelling. Which is sad because Doctor Strange doesn’t really give me much to think about when I’m experiencing it, unless it intentionally leaving things out of its script to explain them later and calls it “engaging the audience”.
This could not be more evident that the villain of Doctor Strange. This is the biggest flaw with the movie. The villain of Doctor Strange is so poorly executed that I don’t feel any danger or threat whenever he’s on-screen. There is nothing between Brumblecorn Cocklesnuff, no relationship, no past inquisition, hardly an opposition between them. He’s just there because this is a super hero movie so we need a villain. For there to be a good superhero movie, you also need a good villain. You may not need to have the villain have a personal relationship with the hero, but you need a good reason to tie them together to cause conflict, not just because the movie calls for an action sequence. There’s maybe some opposition, but it’s all a “the bad buy is bad and does bad things, therefore we must fight him” mentality. The only character development we get for the villain is dialogue between our main characters. Other than that, the villain is almost completely absent except when we need an action sequence.
Speaking of the climax, it’s got a cool idea…I guess. At any rate it’s weird and I don’t really like it.
But on the topic of action sequences, Doctor Strange does have some pretty cool ones. You know all the trippy stuff from the trailers? Yeah prepare for some of that. It’s some pretty freakin’ sweet CGI work, kind of like Inception on a serious LSD trip. And comparing them to the visuals in Inception, since they are pretty similar, I would still say that Inception did it better…sorry Doctor Strange. Inception used the visuals to its advantage to enhance its story…not just the action sequences like in Doctor Strange, where they are primarily for just the action set pieces, and that’s really about it. Not really for an enhancement of the story. I wish the visuals were used better, they could be used very well here, not just to impress the audience. Like I said, the visuals look amazing and have really good CGI, I just wish the story integrated them on a deeper level and not just for an action sequence.
But the settings of the action scenes for this film are pretty cool, Marvel always does a good job at making good situations for an action sequence. Unfortunately, Doctor Strange has been infected by the modern style of crafting an action scene together. All of the shaky-cam (which really isn’t too bad), and all of the fast cuts. This can be done right to make an intense sequence. The Bourne Ultimatum is a key example. And the cinematography is fine here, I just wish that the movie showed itself off more. It’s already got the visuals, so why not show off the action with a wide shot or something? Instead they go for a close-up, and I feel like I’m missing the action. I want cinematography like Mad Max: Fury Road, I want to see what’s happening. I really enjoy that older style of filming an action sequence, wide shots and long takes to show off the choreography and stunt work. The action for Doctor Strange isn’t bad, it’s good action, I just wish it showed itself off.
On the topic of cinematography, Doctor Strange is just like any other Marvel movie and their cinematography. Basic. There’s nothing really special about it, which I wouldn’t say is a big fault of the film. I will say that if the movie had better cinematography, then the movie would have made it all the more visually stunning. Which makes me ask the question, why doesn’t this movie have really good cinematography? It would make it all the better since it’s got the visuals to back it. But Marvel chose to take a safer route and goes good enough.
Let’s talk about the blatant messages of the film. Doctor Strange touches on some interesting topics, like religion (mainly Christianity), hope, arrogance, self-loathing, and the importance of the lives of others. And I like all of these topics, I just wish they did a better job a touching on them in a subtler sense. There were times where the Christian themes were so in my face that it felt almost like it was trying to be a Christian movie. I’m not saying it’s bad to have this theme, I just wish they were a little more subtle about it. One scene in particular is Chiwetel Ejiofor’s character talking to Bottlegourd Carapacian about special gifts. He essentially says “I got the special boots, and this here is a special sword, sometime you’ll find yours”. The movie really likes to make sure you don’t miss it. They also talk about eternal life and how “with the ancient one, she will open your mind”. Like seriously, how could you miss the theme of religion, primarily Christianity. There were a couple of more themes that were overly-blatant, but this one was the biggest one that stuck out to me.
I’ve never been a big fan of the scores in the MCU films, they always feel basic and safe. And I know the composer Michael Giacchino, he’s always done a good job at his scores and I’m a fan of his work. One of my favorites of his being the Ratatouille score. And I’m not sure what happened between Ratatouille and Doctor Strange, but I really wasn’t a fan this time around. I was a little disappointed. There’s really nothing special or emotional about it. The music doesn’t sway the movie in anyway, which I feel is almost a waste, like it’s just used for background noise. For a guy who likes movie scores, this hurts. But it’s nothing new with Marvel.
In the end, I thought Doctor Strange was, for me, just pretty good. Normal audiences will like it. I mean it’s a Marvel movie so it has to be good, right? Marvel fans will of course enjoy this one. For me, I would say it’s somewhere in the middle of Marvel films, not one of the better ones, but it’s not terrible. I try to view these movies as cohesive films, since I’m not a comic book guy. I don’t feel I need to do my homework and read everything Doctor Strange before I see the movie. I don’t have time for that anyways. Really, it’s just what you would expect from a Marvel film, family friendly, that’s a lot of fun for the whole family and makes the Marvel fans happy. It’s a safe film, which is sad to say. It tried a little different move with its hero, but the formula is still the same as every other Marvel film. In the end, I’m giving Doctor Strange a 6/10 with a mild recommend.