Doctor Strange is my most-anticipated Marvel movie, bar none. The very look and feel of it tickles me to no end. This isn't a dude with a shield or missiles or who shrinks. This is a character who traverses possibilities and bends reality itself. I'm a sucker for characters like that, so I went in trying my best not to expect so much...but it's hard to do when you've got Benedict Cumberbatch front and center.
In what may be the most spot-on Marvel casting since RDJ as Tony Stark, Benedict shines as Dr. Stephen Strange, a brilliant but arrogant neurosurgeon who suffers a tragic accident and loses the use of his hands, his most precious tools of the job. Desperate for a cure, Strange stumbles upon Kamar-taj, where a mysterious group of mystics led by The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) "opens his mind" to reality's unlimited possibilities, turning him into a powerful magic-wielding sorcerer. But when a mysterious enemy threatens to destroy the world and let darkness swallow it whole, it's up to Doctor Strange to stop this threat no matter the cost!
It sounds like Marvel's usual movie formula because it is. To director Scott Derrickson's credit, the movie makes up for it by marrying eye-popping visuals with interesting characters. It's no secret the entire thing would not have worked if Benedict Cumberbatch wasn't cast in the role. Benedict is damn charismatic, wonderfully portraying both Stephen Strange's arrogance and vulnerability, making Strange his own rather than doing Tony Stark 2.0. The rest of the cast is made up of highs and lows. Tilda Swinton is stunningly surreal as The Ancient One, but Mads Mikkelsen's Kaecillius is too much of a walking nihilist rhetoric to be compelling. Chiwetel Ejiofor is fine as Mordo, but I wanted more out of this future Strange archenemy.
Of course, we can't talk about Doctor Strange without talking about the visuals. Inception has nothing on this thing. Doctor Strange really takes its visuals to the limit as sorcerers summon crackling mandalas in the air to shift and tilt their environment like Play-Doh in their hands. At one point, the film goes full M.C. Escher in an exciting action sequence (as was seen in the trailers) where Strange and Kaicellius give chase to each other, with their magics turning roads into ceilings and ceilings into walls. It's disorientating as all hell, but director Scott Derrickson tries his best to keep the important beats of the action front and center, so you yourself don't get lost in the movie's visual maze.
But while I loved the visuals and the acting, there's a rushed, incomplete feeling to Doctor Strange, like the movie is in a hurry to go through Strange learning of the mystic arts and facing off against the Big Bad at the end, glossing over a lot of things that make the character and his world so interesting, and ultimately leaving you wondering why the movie is over so quickly. But to its credit, I left feeling I wanted more, way more of this mystical goodness.
Despite all that, Doctor Strange didn't fail to keep me spellbound all the way to the end. Truly unlike any Marvel movie you've seen, it's safe to say that Doctor Strange is quite the fun ride, provided that you open your mind to do so.