I had the opportunity to be invited to a promotional screening to Marvel Studio’s fourteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), wow it’s been 14 movies since Iron Man was released? How time flies. Now this is a spoiler free review of my thoughts and impressions of the film. I walked into this film only seeing parts of trailers on TV at sports bars or while at the airport without any audio. I had some knowledge of Doctor Strange (link to main Wikipedia article) from reading Wikipedia articles and seeing him in his red cape along with the grey sideburns in images from comic book panels. But to be honest, I had little knowledge of his origin story or what he was about other than he cast spells as his super power. I walked into this film as blind as one could be and I imagine most people will be heading to theaters with as much knowledge as I had.
The film is an origin story mainly due to the probability that mass majority of movie goers will most likely not being too familiar with Doctor Strange. This isn’t a character as well known as Iron Man, Batman, Spiderman, Superman, and The Hulk were most of the general public already knows the back story of the hero, their adversaries, and have been part of pop culture since the 1950’s. I get the sense that origin stories should be quick to tell the background of the hero, establish the characters, then get to the action. This contrasts the small screen MCU counterparts such as Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage. Characters in the feature films are given less time for exploring the character and backstories. With Doctor Strange by the time the back story, central characters, and films antagonist are set, you’re maybe about half way into the film with plenty to go. Pacing and story telling didn’t feel rushed or left me sitting there scratching my head trying to pieces together with a monstrous cast of 15 super heroes (I’m talking about you Captain America: Civil War).
One thing about Doctor Strange, that I haven’t felt in a long time with an MCU film, was that I found myself caring and having feelings for the characters. They had substance to them and mainly Doctor Strange and those around him, I felt a connection. Heck I even felt something for the Cloak of Levitation, which in itself I feel that it could have a short film about it’s backstory (much like in how Pixar has it’s shorts before its’ feature films). Benedict Cumberbatch for all extensive purposes IS Doctor Strange and Doctor Strange is Benedict Cumberbatch, much in the way that Tony Stark is Robert Downey Jr. and vice versa.
What I liked most about the film was it’s visual style that reminded me of looking at the real world through one big kaleidoscope, influence from M. C. Escher’s Relativity, and visual movie magic in the style of Christopher Nolan’s Inception. During the film as the world was being manipulated by the sorcerers, I caught myself looking at the intricate details of buildings rearranging and bending like one big machine. Sorcerers casting spells that become visible when cast and the portals they create to travel across the world had a warm and fiery feel to them. This could be quite possibly influenced by Steel Wool Photography. Spell effects and other effects didn’t feel over used or being so outrageous that it broke the magic of the film.
I’ve stated before in previous reviews that I’m not a fan of 3D, but I would recommend seeing this in 3D purely for seeing some of the action sequences that properly use the “3D space” to bring you just that much into the film. I do though have some issues with the 3D with the particular theater I saw Doctor Strange in that there was some blurriness of background and ghosting. This wasn’t because of my viewing angle or having my head tilted to one side or the other, I tried to remedy the situation even wiping my glasses mid film to see if they were smudged, but this was to no avail. Make sure that you see this at a theater that the projectionist has everything properly set. Then again this was the same theater were I saw the 70mm version of Hateful Eight and was delayed by a good 30 minutes, the film was first loaded backwards, then the audio was out of sync with the video… Regardless, if you’re able to see this in 3D the effects and use of space through out the film adds to the engulfment of your imagination into the film without it being a mess like the Transformers films.
All in all, if you’re a fan of previous MCU films, curious about this lesser known superhero, or simply looking for a film that seems to be a breath of fresh air to superhero movies. Go see Doctor Strange, it’s an enjoyable film with good story telling, action, a little romance and something that’ll make you think just what is there that we don’t understand or beyond the world we know… Check out the teaser trailer below if you need a little peek. Oh and make sure to stick around for the mid-credit and end-credit scenes.