Reviewing a Marvel film comes with a strange set of baggage you don’t get from most movies (Doctor Strange pun intended). Most films are either a standalone or another chapter in a saga, but what Marvel has done is something entirely different.
Doctor Strange, while an origin film, is more an introduction of the character into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. If you’re invested into the universe, like I am, you will get far more out of this movie than you would as a standalone.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Doctor Strange, directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister), hits a lot of the same plot points as the original Thor and Iron Man. An arrogant person is knocked down, and then becomes a selfless hero through some chance encounters, and some forced soul searching. As much as I may like the Marvel films, I have to say that they do follow a certain formula — but I also have to point out that they have that formula down pat. Doctor Strange is entertaining as hell.
The film is visually stunning, and the best way to describe the action is saying it is like an M.C. Escher drawing meets Inception, as viewed through a kaleidoscope while on LSD or some other psychedelic. It opened a colorful and different new avenue of the MCU, even if it did it through some paint-by-the-numbers plot points. The script is by Jon Spaights (Prometheus), Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill (aka, Massawyrm from Ain’t It Cool News).
This is where the review kind of diverges into two tracks… If you’re looking for a standalone film, which stands on its own with character development and nuance, then this is not your movie. If you’re looking for a standalone popcorn film, however, you are in for a treat. And if you’re looking for a character’s introduction to the MCU, then it barely gets better than this.
Here is where Marvel does something differently than most. To quote Tilda Swinton’s character The Ancient One, I look at the Doctor Strange franchise and see possibility. All of the Marvel characters show up a bit one dimensional in their first films, but grow into extremely fascinating characters. So when you sit down to watch this movie, you can’t help but mix and match the character with other Avengers, and see so many places they can take and grow the character. It just takes time.
We live in a very immediate and instant gratification culture, so when you view this film from a purely entertainment point of view, you’ll be happy with the action and comedy. The world is a nice new layer for the ever expanding MCU, but Doctor Strange is just filled with so much promise for the future, that I cannot wait for them to really get a chance to dig into the character. The movie is good, but it is a prelude for a possibly fantastic franchise.
That is really the double edge sword of a Marvel film. The characters get fleshed out incredibly well, but only over a long period of time. So somehow they have found the right balance of immediate entertainment, with hints of promise for future character building. But like I said, they have that formula down pat, and Doctor Strange is no exception so no matter what you will have a lot of fun at the multiplex.
Here is the trailer for Doctor Strange: