Movie Review: Doctor Strange

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Bottom Line: A good mix of drama, comedy, and action backed up by Benedict Freakin’ Cumberbatch.

With “Doctor Strange”, magic enters the Marvel universe.  It is a difficult topic to broach in a world of superheroes with pretty well defined powers.  Magic is amorphous.  What exactly can’t you do with magic?  Well, uh, nothing?  Then how do you create a compelling movie featuring a bunch of people who are basically limitless?  Sounds impossible, but “Doctor Strange” succeeds.

Much of the success of this movie has to do with pacing.  First off, you have to devote a decent amount of time to Doctor Strange’s origins and there’s a lot of material to work with given he’s an egotistical, self-centered and brilliant neurosurgeon who loses it all and turns to mystic medicine to try to get it all back again.  Second, sure, magic is unlimited, but it’s also really difficult and most of the world destroying magic is well out of the reach of everyone except our hero and a few other trusted souls.  Third, put lots of moral restrictions on the use of said spells so that they would be used only in the direst of circumstances.  It’s not perfect, but it works well for this movie.

The thing that works best about this movie is the comedy.  It is interspersed throughout and fits perfectly within the dialogue and the personalities of the characters.  Most comes from Doctor Strange himself and you will probably not be surprised to see that Benedict Cumberbatch has exquisite comic timing.  In a world of infinite retakes and precision editing, you don’t really know who the good comedian is, the actor or the post-production people, but regardless, it works.

The action in the movie consists mostly of time warping and running through fractals and twisting landscapes while martial artsing with various magic-conjured weapons.  It is mostly well done, but can be a bit disorienting at times, but no more so than most modern action scenes are.  It’s kind of half psychedelic trip and half “Inception”.

“Doctor Strange” is so far outside the norm of Marvel superheroes, it’s hard to rank it with the others.  It is definitely one of the more entertaining and engrossing of the universe.  If you can look past the all-encompassing nature of magic, you will likely enjoy this one.

As a postscript, I think this is the first Marvel movie which I understood both closing credit Easter eggs.  Not to give much away, but they promote the next Thor movie and the next Doctor Strange villain.