Every now and then, Marvel Studios opts for a riskier venture for their tent-pole pictures. In some cases, such as Thor, the risk is levied by the Avenger’s Connection. But sometimes, that connection is much thinner. Guardians of the Galaxy and now Doctor Strange.
And what we have here is another Guardians of the Galaxy result. Doctor Strange is an exciting, emotional, funny trip of a film. Benedict Cumberbatch carries an arrogance early on in the film. Stephen Strange is a truly prideful man, but he has very carefully crafted an image. When that is all taken away, at the end of his rope, he finds a man that had, similarly faced bodily destruction and appeared to have fully recovered. He is pointed towards Katmandu and a place called Kamar-Taj. There he encounters the Ancient One who, with her followers Mordo and Wong, begin to train Strange.
Meanwhile, the rebel Kaecilius and his disciples are trying to for ever alter reality. Doctor Strange finds himself in the “New York Branch” which leads to battles with Kaecilius and his minions. With Strange Mordo and Wong coming to a final fight with Kaecilius.
The movie manages to skirt the line of seriousness, but an undercurrent of humor. The humor is dryer than other Marvel films, but it works, as often Strange finds his attempts at humor falling flat with Wong. There is a fun payoff with that one.
It is hard to ignore the impressive visuals. Early trailers made things look like it was ripping off Inception. But Derrickson and his team actually gave us much more. The film brings to life those trippy multidimensional visuals that Steve Ditko drew in the 60’s with a beautiful and lush feel.
There has been a lot of controversy over the issue of Tilda Swinton playing the Asian One. In the comics the character was Asian. And yeah, it was a pretty blatant “Mystical Asian” stereotype. Which is what resulted in the choice to cast Swinton. The film does overcome this. But as written? They easily could have cast and Asian actor in the role. There are not a ton of major roles for Asian actors. Avoiding stereotypes is done in the script and performance. And I believe this film would have successfully avoided the stereotype, without making one less role for Asian actors. I do not believe racism was at Derrickson and his casting teams heart. I suspect it was an attempt to avoid the very issue of racism. I think they made a choice I would not. But Swinton is entertaining in the film.
Doctor Strange is one of Marvel’s strongest entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is certainly yet another origin story, but it is handled so very well. It also has no requirement that you be familiar with the character. You can enter the film with zero knowledge of the character and fully enjoy this film.