Genre: Comic Book Action
Running Time: 115 mins.
Premise: After a near-fatal car crash, brash, cocky surgeon (is there any other kind?) Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) heads to Kathmandu to heal and learn the ways of the mystic arts under the tutelage of The Ancient One (a whitewashed Tilda Swinton). His mastery comes in handy when a former student tries to summon the powerful Dormammu of the Dark Dimension, and Strange must stop him to, you know, save the world and stuff.
Behind-the-Scenes: Co-writer C. Robert Cargill and director Scott Derrickson previously worked together on Sinister. The film has taken a lot of heat from the Asian community for changing the race of the Ancient One character.
The Good: Marvel has its formula down to a science by this point, and while the movie never surprises, it remains efficiently above average. Derrickson is a fine craftsman who shows a good grip on how to make this trippy source material work on screen. Many of the visuals in the film are eye-popping and the action is cleverly staged. The cast is full of pros who know their way around thinly scripted characters. For all the hand-wringing over her casting, Swinton gives the best performance. Michael Giacchino's score is inventive and exciting.
The Bad: Marvel has its formula down to a science by this point. We've seen this kind of origin story before - not just in other Marvel movies, but particularly in Batman Begins, whose story structure is borrowed heavily by Doctor Strange. Speaking of borrowing from Chris Nolan movies, there's a lot of Inception imagery here as well. Cumberbatch is fine as Strange, but his American accent is a tad wonky and distracting - should have just let him use his natural British dialect. Rachel McAdams is utterly wasted in a supporting "girlfriend" role. The villain (played by Mads Mikkelsen) is one of Marvel's worst: he has almost no lines and fails to make much of an impression outside of his admittedly cool eye makeup. The climactic showdown between the CGI Dormammu and Strange evokes the silliness of Ryan Reynolds' Green Lantern movie.
Should You See It?: Look, it's fine. You probably should see it just to keep up with the Marvel universe, and you won't regret it. But this is lower tier Marvel for me - I'm not exactly chomping at the bit for Doctor Strange 2, even though I know we're going to get it.
Star Rating: *** out of 5 stars.
Better Than: The Incredible Hulk, Thor: The Dark World, Iron Man 2
Worse Than: Thor, Iron Man 1 & 3, Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, Every Captain America Movie
* * *
Enjoy this post? Click like on the Hammervision Facebook page and join the party.