EJ’s ‘Doctor Strange’ Review: Strong Visuals Can’t Save A Weak Film

Doctor Strange Is More Of The Same From Marvel. At Least This Is Pretty To Watch…

Like a slasher franchise in the 1980’s, somehow Marvel gets away with making the same movies over and over again. There was times during ‘Doctor Strange‘ that the movie feels like a re-hash of ‘Iron-Man‘ from 2008. Sure the characters are similar but does the film have to follow the same beats and patterns?

What I will say that this movie ended up being my favorite first film for a Marvel Cinematic Universe character. It lacks in any real depth but it’s a far better introduction than most characters have gotten during their first solo outings.

There is glimmers of a great piece here. The artistic visual journey ‘Doctor Strange‘ takes you on is unlike any other comic book film. I never thought a Disney-produced movie would conjure up comparisons to surreal films like ‘Enter The Void‘ and ‘2001: A Space Odyssey‘. Can’t help but be amazed by how art-house this attempted to be. Especially that masterful final fight that’s in reverse; that was one of the single best things the MCU has ever done.

But just when it gets good, their tropes come right back in to meddle with the fun.

What are these tropes you ask? Let me break them down for you:

Since roughly ‘Iron-Man 2‘, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has fallen into using a formulaic approach to crafting their films. With this formula comes obvious flaws some critics and myself have pointed out. The villains are notoriously weak, female love interests are pointless, and the humor nears cringe-worthy territory.

“You think you know how the world works. You think this material universe is all there is. What if I told you the reality you know is one of many?”
-The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton)

Doctor Strange‘ has all of flaws I noted. Some of them even overlap with each other. Like ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy‘, the final confrontation between Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Dormammu went for jokes rather than tension. Basically, the movie told me that this mystic being who lives for eternity was annoyed by Strange enough to just leave Earth alone. Why even invite Dormammu to the party if you were just gonna make him a laughing stock?

Mads Mikkelsen is another in a long line of wasted villains with one-note, thankless roles. His character Kaecilius would disappear for much of the film’s running time to then suddenly pop up to be a threat. Not buying it. Marvel is so drawn to the hero’s journey that their villain never goes anywhere.

The over-use of that Marvel comedy is a glaring issue in ‘Doctor Strange‘. The company has proven before they know how to use their comedy properly with films like ‘Captain American: Winter Solider‘ having less of it and more intensity. But this movie goes as far as using a dated Beyonce joke and constant one-liners from literally EVERYONE. I’m sorry but Kaecilius doesn’t need to be a jokester as well. The only character who used comedy properly was the Doctor Strange’s cloak. It got a bit slapstick but it felt organic at least.

Strange         Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Stephen Strange

Other than the stunning visuals, the only thing I can really praise is the acting from some of the actors. Benedict Cumberbatch does his best with the material given to him. He doesn’t handle the comedic moments well but he brings some intensity to the few serious ones. The standout performance for me is Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One. She’s regal and stern but can crack a joke when needed. She may be the best actress the Marvel Cinematic Universe as ever seen. Out of all the supporting characters, Benedict Wong’s mystic arts librarian Wong was the scene-stealer. He had a better character arc than the movie’s two villains did.

Those actors shine but Mads Mikkelsen, Rachel McAdams, and Chiwetel Ejiofor just played one-dimensional characters. I don’t know why McAdams was even in the movie and I already mentioned the waste of Mikkelsen. I was looking forward to Chiwetel Ejiofor just as much as I was looking forward to Tilda Swinton but he played second-fiddle until it was too late to care.

Mostly, I was upset that a talented director like Scott Derrickson made another Marvel that seems like the rest. Derrickson shined in 2012’s ‘Sinister‘ but his knack for subverting genre expectations couldn’t be used here. ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy‘ director James Gunn found a way to work his brand into the Marvel cookie-cutter but maybe Derrickson should’ve went the route of Edgar Wright and Patty Jenkins.

Final Thoughts:

If you’ve liked Marvel movie 1-13, then you will most likely enjoy their 14th film. If you are looking for something different plot/character wise, then you will be disappointed. This will get a pass from viewers for the odd visuals but look beyond those and you’ll see a film struggling to be interesting.

EJ Moreno
EJ Morenohttp://Vimeo.com/EJMoreno
Who is EJ Moreno? Is he a trained physician? No. Is he a former Miss Universe contestant? Possibly. With a bachelors degree in film and a love of pop culture, he brings an alternative view to the world of pop culture journalism. Follow him on Twitter @EJKhryst and check out his film work at Vimeo.com/ejmoreno