Doctor Strange (2016) Review

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(Doctor Strange - 2016 - CC. Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
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“Death is what gives life meaning. To know your days are numbered. Your time is short. You’d think after all this time, I’d be ready. But look at me. Stretching one moment out into a thousand… just so I can watch the snow.” – The Ancient One, Doctor Strange (2016).

My continuing denial that Marvel films are not for me seems to conclude weekly with the watching and subsequent enjoyment of a Marvel film. Last week it was Thor, this week it’s Doctor Strange. Out of all the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Doctor Strange was the one I was most looking forward to out of the whole bunch. This can be put down to a very large variety of reasons. Benedict Cumberbatch and Mads Mikkelsen starring in it may be one of the most obvious reasons.

I had genuinely no clue what the opening of the film was about. All I did know at that point was Mads Mikkelsen was once again playing a great villain. Being thrown into so much at once with the opening is a new wave of confusion. To be fair it’s the best way of being introduced to this type of film. Everything thrown at you in the introduction to the film is kind of explained to you throughout the entire film. They at least attempt to explain everything, although it doesn’t always work. There are honestly bits of this film that I still don’t understand, but that’s not too much of a problem.

As far as actors go, Benedict Cumberbatch may be the best of the bunch. He’s extremely good at what he does, and Doctor Strange does nothing but highlight that fact. It’s nice to see him getting some extremely fun and interesting work. He plays Stephen Strange with great confidence and is assuredly the best pick for the role. Still, regardless of how good an actor he is, you don’t make him do an American actor. I don’t care who he’s playing. He could be playing Captain America for all I care, you just don’t give the man an American accent. Still, I suppose it works to some degree, it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever heard.

The CGI throughout this film is quite simply beautiful (Doctor Strange – 2016 – CC. Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

What you notice about Steven Strange very early on in the film is that he’s a B-Grade version of Tony Stark. I will admit that the car crash he is in should have killed him, but at least he got to drive a fast car for a bit. The thoughts of how that car crash should have killed him were immediately replaced with “look at his fucking hands”. My God there’s some decent gore in this film, especially with those hands. Again this does link in with the talent of Cumberbatch, on the whole he plays Strange extremely well.

If I’m honest the cast on the whole do an admirable job of creating a uniquely marvellous Marvel film. No pun intended there. God I hate myself sometimes. Anyways, notable standout performances from Benedict Wong and Tilda Swinton are absolutely brilliant, as expected to be fair. Wong seems to be an actor who’s cropping up in a lot more of what I watch quite recently. Prometheus (2011) and Sunshine (2007) are the two films he’s most recently been in. He may have appeared in more than those two, I just can’t be bothered to check.

Alongside this already incredible cast is Chiwetel Ejiofor who plays Mordo. Turns out Mordo is a bastard villain in the next few films, I didn’t know that. Don’t worry, it’s not that big a spoiler, especially considering the post credit sequences. Aside from his brief and quick introduction, he provides a very important role to Doctor Strange. He’s more or less a visual accompaniment for the progress of Strange and it works well.

All of the Marvel films I have watched so far have some pretty competent CGI, Doctor Strange is possibly the best of the bunch. The widening of Strange’s mind is possibly one of the greatest bits of CGI I have ever seen. It’s such a weird trip and it’s that good of a scene I honestly forgot it was a Marvel film. There is a lot of stuff in this film that allows you to forget that you’re watching a film in this series. Honestly, that scene is one of my favourites. Not just because of how it looks, but because of the writing, specifically for Tilda Swinton.

The personal highlight for me was the performance of Mads Mikkelsen (Doctor Strange – 2016 – CC. Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

I’ve not spoken about the writing of this film and there’s good reason for that. A lot of it is just gibberish to me and the passing film fan. You need to really enjoy the comics and lore of these films to fully understand them. I got The Ancient One, and I get the whole magic stuff, but that’s it. That’s only scratching the surface of what to expect from a general Marvel film. By far the most confusing of all is Doctor Strange, mainly because it tries to introduce so many things at once. Apparently there’s a lot more to introduce also, which is going to mean more sequels, with more and more uniquely different bits of lore to explore. Both a blessing and a curse I suppose.

No, I’m not one to comment on the overall pacing of a film, however I will make an exception for Doctor Strange. As far as I’m concerned, the pacing of the film overall is very, difficult. It leaps from comedy to drama at a moments notice and often it doesn’t make the transition too well. Aside from the pacing though there isn’t anything in this film that bothers me. Overall it’s a phenomenal bit of film and it has some fantastic performances throughout. No matter how much you try, there’s always going to be the superhero cliches.

Verdict

If this weren’t a Marvel film I am honestly sure Cumberbatch would be an Oscar nomination for his role in this. To be honest every performance he gives is pretty close to being nominated for some award. He’s superb and spectacular and every positive word to possibly connect him with a great performance. In fact, everyone in this film is brilliant. There’s a perfect blend of choreography, comedy and class acting all round. Not quite as good as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. (2017) quite simply because it doesn’t have the strength of a solid soundtrack.

Well, I guess you could say this film is MARVELlous. You know, I promised myself I wouldn’t write that in my actual review, but here we are. The chemistry between the cast, specifically with Cumberbatch and Wong, and Cumberbatch and Swinton especially. Mads Mikkelsen, as always a pleasure in whatever he appears in, working well with his role. The choreography throughout is truly stellar, some of the best Marvel work I have seen in a very long time. As a film in general then, it’s great. It surpassed my expectations of a general Marvel film, and goes on to become a really great film. A breakaway from the traditional Marvel formula is exactly what I, and this film, needed most.


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REVIEW OVERVIEW
Doctor Strange
Ewan Gleadow
I've been writing for various different places for roughly four or five years now. Currently focusing my writing on film reviews, politics and occasional game reviews. Hopefully you enjoy my work, be sure to contact me if you have any criticisms or praise.

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