Doctor Stephen Strange enters the Marvel universe by “forgetting everything he thinks he knows.” Luckily you don’t have to as the latest installment into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) expands your mind. Doctor Strange also expands the MCU into the magical and spiritual universe(s) and provides that integral puzzle piece the MCU has been missing up to this point. Keep reading this Spoiler-Free Doctor Strange review to see how Marvel just adds magic to the MCU.
Without being spoilery, Doctor Strange introduces magic into the MCU plot. We’ve already seen a little big of “magic” so to speak with Thor’s storyline but almost everything else has been relatively “realistic” by either having scientific or technological explanations. The infinity stones are the exception and really cause a problem for the MCU since no one really knows how to deal with them. The Guardians have been able to harness the power of one infinity stone but it was between the four of them and it wasn’t exactly a controlled experiment. Loki was able to channel his infinity stone to corrupt people in the Avengers, but when he tries his trick on Tony Stark it doesn’t work. He seems perplexed by this, assuming that he doesn’t really know how the infinity stone works, it just does and he can use it for very simple purposes.
Enter, Doctor Strange. We have some magical things we need to deal with so here is a guy who deals with magical things! Now, this is an origin story, so it’s very loosely tied to the previous MCU films. This is not a bad thing at all, in fact it keeps right in line with being a stand alone film and requires minimal (if any) previous MCU knowledge. It also builds on the ongoing narrative within the MCU and will tie very neatly into the existing story arc. Don’t think that there aren’t kickbacks to the previous films though, avid fans will surely spot the Easter eggs among various shots. A particular scene is a brief shot of (spoiler redacted) reading “The Doors of Perception” by Aldous Huxley (I missed the title at first viewing).
Doctor Strange, and really every Marvel movie from now until forever, has the unfortunate position of being on quite a high pedestal with just as high, if not higher, expectations. Thankfully, as has been a continuing tradition, Marvel knocked it out of the park yet again. Doctor Strange was mind bending and trippy and will challenge you on internal levels and convictions that no other MCU film has to date. And yet, even mirroring a formula we’ve seen time and time again, Doctor Strange is the cerebral Iron Man of the magical side of the MCU. It had the fun and the humor, the painful self journey, it explores good and evil and every shade in between. It looks at when being too good can turn to evil and how sacrifices must be made for the greater good.
Needless to say, Benedict Cumberbatch nailed every second of Stephen Strange. He is what RDJ is to Tony Stark. Watching him as Doctor Strange, I couldn’t help but see a little bit of Sherlock in some of his scenes and even felt like some of the score reflected that all too familiar tune. Chitwetel Ejiofor was a perfect fit for Mordo, Strange’s friend and mentor. Mordo’s growth throughout the film was executed masterfully and really enhanced the development of Strange and the story as a whole. Strange’s medical side kick and on-again-off-again love interest, Christine Palmer, was also very well written and very well executed by Rachel McAdams. Palmer was almost a typical tragic love interest but she was better than that and I’m glad the writers chose not to entrench her too badly into that trope (though parts of it were present).
Mads Mikkelsen plays bad guys very well. His role in Doctor Strange was no exception. His performance was elevated by his on-screen chemistry with Cumberbatch and he did an excellent job of elevating his character, Kaecilius, above a normal villain. There was a little bit of fuss over Tilda Swinton playing The Ancient One, but after first viewing, I was not disappointed in the slightest at her performance. She was able to depict the complexities of her character in a very palpable way. She did a fantastic job. Benedict Wong, played Wong, and the play on the name isn’t even the best part of his character or performance.
Even with all the cerebral challenges, Doctor Strange was able to present some pretty deep and heavy concepts in a very palatable manner for an all ages audience. It touched on very heavy topics with the skillful and steady hands of a brain surgeon (I’m not sorry) while keeping the overall tone amicable. Every part of the movie was enjoyable. There were several laugh out loud moments and giddy “did you see that?!” moments. The action was lively and the special effects were incredible and at times left your head spinning. Doctor Strange was able to keep things fresh while maintaining that comfort and reliability of a Marvel movie. Hats off to everyone involved, this is absolutely a movie worth watching in theaters and adding to your collection of Marvel films. I’m already looking forward to the real magic when RDJ and Benny share the stage, the music discussions between Strange and Star Lord, and Strange vs. Loki. Only good things are on the horizon for Marvel.
Don’t forget! There is both a pre-credits extra scene and a post credits extra scene. One is hilarious and the other continues the story for perhaps a… SEQUEL?! Maybe. Either way, both are fantastic and Doctor Strange will return.