Film Review: Doctor Adequate: Marvel’s ‘Doctor Strange’ casts a satisfactory spell on the audience

Lauren Sieberg, Staff Writer

With multiple films surrounding wizards coming to theaters in recent weeks, audience members are going to the movies expecting an experience nothing short of magical. However, while these films are certainly engaging, one movie about a doctor turned sorcerer doesn’t completely measure up to others.

In Marvel’s “Doctor Strange,” director Scott Derrickson and his team put together an entertaining yet flawed film with a plotline and actors that don’t entirely size up to previous Marvel masterpieces.

The beginning of the film introduces protagonist Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), an arrogant neurosurgeon whose comfortable life is changed forever after a horrific car crash. When he wakes up in the hospital hours later, Strange is informed that the nerves in his hands are severely damaged, preventing him from continuing with his work.

After therapy and standard medical methods fail to heal his hands, his ceaseless search for a solution leads him to Kamar-Taj, a compound in Kathmandu, Nepal. While there, he meets the sorcerer Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who saves him from crooks on the street and takes him under his wing. Mordo leads Strange to the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), who explains that her healing process includes delving into the mystic arts. When Strange expresses his doubts due to his realist point of view, he discovers that she packs quite the punch (literally) when she sends him into his astral form—much like a ghost version of himself—and blasts him through a sequence of bizarre, vivid planes. After hours of begging her to teach him, Strange is finally accepted as an apprentice to the Ancient One, learning about the various magical arts.

Strange learns that while the Earth is threatened by various powers in other dimensions (like the Dark Dimension), it is safeguarded by three sanctums located in Hong Kong, New York City, and London, which are in turn protected by sorcerers like himself. Although Strange struggles for a brief period because of his close-mindedness, he eventually casts away his doubts and starts to quickly progress. In addition to basic powers like creating portals and conjuring weapons, he discovers how to use the Eye of Agamotto—a legendary artifact—to bend time itself, albeit against the laws of nature.

However, after the London Sanctum is destroyed, Strange travels to the New York Sanctum to protect it. He arrives just in time to find the corrupt sorcerer Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), an ex-apprentice to the Ancient One, and his zealots. Strange then interrupts their attempts to channel the power of Dormammu, the Lord of Chaos from the Dark Dimension, to destroy the second sanctum. After a fight with Kaecilius in which Strange is victorious, the immortality-hungry sorcerer shares a piece of shocking information about the Ancient One that causes Strange to question which side he should really be fighting for.

Although the plotline is certainly captivating, the ending and various significant events throughout the film feel far too predictable. For example, the scene in which Strange speeds past cars along a cliff then looks down at his phone for a long period of time completely screams car crash, so the audience expects it long before it happens.

While the actors are definitely interesting choices for their roles, it is difficult for the audience to relate to many of them, especially Doctor Strange himself. In the beginning, Strange comes across as extremely conceited, so it becomes difficult to feel pity for him when he suffers, much less feel happy for him when he succeeds.

Similarly, although the actors are all fairly familiar faces, their expressions seem to lack real feeling. Even during some of the most dramatic scenes, several significant characters—mainly Tilda Swinton and Mads Mikkelsen—appear entirely emotionless. If the actors appeared doleful during upsetting parts and amused in funny scenes, the audience could relate to the characters easier as they cry and laugh along with them. Many successful Marvel films, such as “Captain America” and “The Avengers,” sustain a plethora of emotions that audience members can feel deep in their hearts from start to finish.

However, not everything in this movie is majorly unsuccessful. Two truly beautiful elements that keep the audience’s eyes glued to the screen are the special effects and costuming. In almost every scene, the audience is met with a dazzling array of kaleidoscopic special effects and beautiful, unique outfits, like the ability to bend towering buildings and Doctor Strange’s crimson Cloak of Levitation respectively. Audience members can’t help but feel a bit envious of Strange when he uses his sling ring to create swirling golden portals to places that are continents away from him, as this would be a truly magical and convenient trick in real life. While the special effects are often beyond description, the film manages to pull off incredibly abnormal scenes without overly confusing the audience.

Despite its flaws, “Doctor Strange” is still definitely worth seeing, even if it isn’t the next “Captain America” or “The Avengers.” “Doctor Strange” is a wonderfully peculiar film, thanks to bizarre special effects and unique costumes.

Grade: B
“Doctor Strange”
Rated: PG-13
Length: 115 minutes
Genre: Fantasy/Science Fiction
Directed by: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen