Doctor Strange’s debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is mind-bending, time-twisting and beautiful. The film overloaded with incredible actors and stunning special effects, quite possibly some of the best in any Marvel film and in any movie this year. However, the story fails to provide any unique plot points or shocking twists. But, it makes up for some of that in its cleverness and its visuals that help show the magic of Strange’s world.
“Doctor Strange” is the story of how Dr. Stephen Strange, an arrogant neurosurgeon, becomes a sorcerer and defender of the world after a car accident leaves him unable to continue his work as a doctor.
The opening scene gave me a glimpse of the intricate and exciting world I was about to enter. A lone sorcerer, bald and dressed in a hooded yellow robe, fended off a mysterious antagonist and his disciples on the streets of London. Within seconds, the fighters jumped onto the side of a building, the world shifted and they continued their battle on a new plane. Every piece of architecture, from the stone columns to the window panes, rose, rotated and moved independently from one another as the group warred on the spatially undefined battleground.
The scene left me intrigued and craving more. Thankfully, the movie delivered on these epic, suspenseful and graphically astounding fights again and again. Unfortunately, the supreme cinematography and special effects were unbalanced by the plot of the story, and while the smaller pieces of the story were great, the larger picture was lackluster.
The movie was riddled with cleverness, foreshadowing and all the necessary literary elements that create great storytelling on a small scale. There were subtle jokes like when Doctor Strange argued with his sentient cloak or when he paused mid-battle to strike a witty blow that were very well done. In addition, the symbolism in the characters and their dialogue were profound; there were moments that I had to process what I had just seen before realizing the deeper symbolism behind seemingly insignificant items like Strange’s cracked watch.
But, the film failed to take risks, stray away from the comic in any interesting way or at least try something new. On a large scale, the plot didn’t feel different from anything that had been done before, and the movie suffered a bit in result.
For example, if you were to watch “Doctor Strange” and “Iron Man” back-to-back, the similarities would be uncanny: wealthy man seeks rapid healing after severe injury only to realize that he must rise up as a hero and put others before himself.
However, this is an “origin story” movie, and its purpose is to introduce a character, explain their motives and document their change from human to superhuman. It can be hard to make new out of something that has been done so many times, but risks are what make good movies great. It felt a little too safe, almost a copy of previous films in a similar way that “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was like a copy of “A New Hope.” Even still, it had enough intrigue, enough cleverness and an overwhelming amount of beautifully-done special effects to make it an enjoyable and memorable experience.
“Doctor Strange” isn’t simply a good superhero movie; it’s a really good superhero movie. But it’s not a great one. It doesn’t look like this movie would be the kind that will fit on a shelf next to “The Avengers” or debatably the greatest superhero movie of all time, “The Dark Knight.” It’s just not unique enough to hold its own there. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable and worth your time.