“Doctor Strange” proves that no character is too outlier or, uh, strange for Marvel to flesh out. Doctor Stephen Strange first appeared alongside the Human Torch in the early ‘60s in “Strange Tales.” Rumor has it he was Marvel’s response to the rise of psychedelic culture. His character is inherently bizarre as he is technically a magician. No horrific experiment gone wrong, no fancy suits or gadgets, and no God-like powers. Steven Strange is a bonafide wizard.
British superstar and acting genius, Benedict Cumberbatch brings Steven Strange to life. And he is truly a big reason why this film is as good as it is. (Honestly, Cumberbatch could make a third-grader’s play into gold). He ditches his devilishly delicious accent for a rather convincing American twang.
Steven is a renowned neurosurgeon who comes off rather full of himself. (He and Tony Stark could be brothers in that regard). His female love interest is also a surgeon, by the name of Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). She gets very little screen time, though. If anything, she is simply a sounding board that emphasizes Steven’s over inflated ego.
But everything changes when a car accident leaves him with irreparable nerve damage. His hands tremble and he is unable to perform the delicate surgeries. This sends him on the hunt for a cure and it ultimately leads him to Nepal to seek out a monk, of sorts, who can, allegedly, cure him.
What he finds out is more than he bargains for. A strange sect of Buddist-like monks who use magic to protect the world from supernatural threats. Tilda Swinton is The Ancient One and leads the benevolent cult. After showing Steven how little he really knows about the world, she accepts him as a student.
Through trial and error, Steven learns to control his newfound magical powers only to be confronted by a former student gone bad. Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) seeks to unleash a great darkness over the earth. It’s up to the good wizards to stop him and his cronies. However, Steven is not, at first, willing to take up the mantel. But of course, he ultimately does and saves the day.
The effects in this film fully embrace the psychedelic origins of Steven Strange. The graphics are mind-blowing and totally worth seeing in 3D and on IMAX if you can. Although, if you have motion sickness issues, then perhaps see it in 2D. Out of all the Marvel films thus far, this one is truly visually stunning and even puts “Thor’s” Asgard to shame. Speaking of Thor, stick around to the end of the credits. (I won’t spoil it by telling you why. Just do it).
Cumberbatch brings a certain swagger and humor to Steven Strange that makes him a delightful narcissist. He also manages to bring a sense of reality to an otherwise “out there” character.
Other notable talent includes Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo and Benedict Wong as…Wong. (Not himself).
If there is anything disappointing about this film it is simply a missed opportunity. A great portion of the film is set in Nepal and yet very few Nepalese or Nepalese-looking people are in it. The cultural appropriation of eastern religions is rampant. Furthermore, The Ancient One could have—and should have been given to an Asian actor. Swinton is marvelous, but it feels almost like a slap in the face to have all the leading roles played by whites. The only notable Asian is Benedict Wong, and honestly, he is so good he should have had more time on screen. (Fans of Netflix’s “Marco Polo” will recognize him).
On the whole, however, “Doctor Strange” is a trip totally worth taking.
– Mesa resident Kaely Monahan is producer of Popcorn Fan Film Reviews.