Film Review: ‘Doctor Strange’ Starring Benedict Cumberbatch

Marvel has themselves another hit with Doctor Strange, which may be their best origin story since the first Iron Man.

A brilliant surgeon whose life changed after a horrific car crash damaging the nerves in his hands, Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) looked everywhere for a way to cure himself. After numerous experimental procedures fail, Strange decides to try and look elsewhere for answers. After hearing about a paraplegic who has been able to walk again, Strange goes and seeks out this man, Jonathan Pangborn (Benjamin Bratt). Pangborn informs Strange that it wasn’t a doctor who fixed him and directs Strange to Kamar-Taj, located in Nepal.

Traveling to Nepal, Strange is lead by Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) to meet with The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). After traveling so far, Strange is hesitant to trust that The Ancient One can actually do anything to help fix his hands so he can go back to his old life. In response, she shows Strange the astral plane and reveals to him all the other dimensions that exist outside of Earth. Begging her to teach him, she declines and is kicked out of Kamar-Taj. Fearing that his arrogance and brilliance could lead him down the dark past that her latest student, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) went down, The Ancient One doesn’t want to risk having that sort of power falling into the wrong hands again. Mordo convinces her to teach Strange, making the point that he could be useful in the upcoming battle with Kaecilius. Strange is brought back into the temple, being given the chance to leave his old life behind and start anew.

I’ll come right out and say it: Doctor Strange is unlike any movie I’ve seen before. I’m not just singling out comic book movies either. Doctor Strange is the rare Marvel film that takes a chance and brings a whole new side of Marvel’s universe to life. But what this movie will be known for are its visual effects, which are comparable and sometimes even exceeds the films that were clear inspirations to Doctor Strange. The obvious comparisons, Inception and The Matrix, are beautiful and gorgeous with their effects, but at least to me, Doctor Strange finds a way to top both of these and will go down as one of the best uses of CGI throughout the last decade. It’s a rare film where the 3D does actually enhance the experience.

When it comes to the sorcerer supreme himself, there’s no one else that’s better suited for the role than Benedict Cumberbatch. Not even just for his acting chops, but his look and aura feel as if they’re otherwordly. The same can be said for his co-star, Tilda Swinton, playing The Ancient One. The main shock, at least for me, was how Derrickson was able to give us a villain with some sort of motive and back story. Kaecilius didn’t just decide to be evil, but there were events that led him to the Ancient One and through his lessons, he drifted toward the darkness and despair that lived within him. The cast as a whole really brought their A game and none of them felt like stock characters who brought nothing to the film.

Easily the biggest film Derrickson has taken on, he swung for the fences and knocked it out of the park. There are very few criticisms of Doctor Strange, most of which have absolutely no impact on how I view the film. I went in nervous, content to get something along the lines of the previous Thor films. Instead, I came out thinking this was the best origin story since Iron Man for the MCU. We will get the chance to see Doctor Strange soon…sooner than a lot of people expect. Stick around for the two end credit sequences and you’ll know what I mean.

Doctor Strange is directed by Scott Derrickson, written by Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill, and stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott Adkins, Mads Mikkelsen, and Tilda Swinton. Doctor Strange will be in theaters November 4, 2016.

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