Marvel's strangest, loosest, and weirdest film to date, Dr. Strange, has arrived in time to reinvigorate the "Marvel Cinematic Universe." While the character of Dr. Strange has been around since 1963, there seem to be far fewer fanboys to serve with this picture. This is truly a one-and-done type of comic book movie requiring nearly zero familiarity with the minutia of the comic books. For a casual filmgoer looking for spectacle, Marvel has really delivered.
Benedict Cumberbatch adopts a somewhat-odd American accent to play Dr. Stephen Strange, a brilliant-yet-prickly neurosurgeon whose hands are severely damaged following a car accident. Strange alienates the only person who can stand him and squanders his fortune looking for a medical solution to save his battered hands and to allow him to return to life as he knew it. In desperation, Strange (a logical, non-believer) travels to Nepal looking for a sacred temple which may hold the key to helping him heal.
Instead of medical salvation, he finds there a group of mystical monk-like warriors trained in magic who can access and harness an "infinite multiverse." He travels through blacklight posters found on 1970s college dorm walls and through M.C. Escher-like kaleidoscope worlds of fantasy. The visuals are stunning and there is just enough malarkey and gobbledegook to keep it all humming along quickly. Don't think about it too much, just enjoy it. Cumberbatch goes along for the ride and injects his wit and sarcasm in equal measure to keep the ride from becoming a drag.
The villain, played with very cool and moody eye make up by Mads Mikkelsen won't be a fan favorite and his plan, to allow the earth to be engulfed by a universe destroying dark force, is both forgettable and terrifically generic. But Mikkelsen does his best to sell it. With what he was given, he tries. Certainly he succeeds where the villains from Thor: The Dark World or Iron Man 2 or most other Marvel entries have failed. Tilda Swinton (the center of this film's white washing concerns) imbues her character, The Ancient One, with the right amount of wisdom and spry humor.
The third act is one of the most successful of any Marvel movie. It avoids the "too muchery" that has cursed most of the series. The action is intense and satisfying, the music adds to the picture (a rarity for Marvel), and the tool which Strange uses to destroy the galactic threat is hilarious and one that we all can harness at will. The obligatory (2!) post-credit scenes hint at Dr. Strange's involvement in the larger Marvel film franchise. On its own this film is fun, thrilling, and brimming with spectacular imagery. Once we take Strange and graft him into an Iron Man movie, I have doubts about whether that will work as well. Check this solo picture out while you can. See it on a big screen with great sound.
- The visuals and action. Trippy, like Dali channeling the Matrix.
- The humor.
- The lack of connectivity to other Marvel movies.
- Cumberbatch's accent.
- The villain, despite Mikkelsen's admirable efforts.
Worth your time. Grab some munchies, hit a bean bag chair, and drift off into the multiverse. A-