Don’t worry kids, there’s just enough time left in 2016 to give us a signature Marvel origin story. This time around surgeon Steven Strange gets a chance to step into the limelight and go through the template of riches to rags to riches again, all in the usual format we’ve come to expect. Of course, it’s difficult to argue with Marvel’s ethos when it works so well for them, but I did wonder whether Doctor Strange would throw something different in the mix, other than the fact that we now have magic to play with in the MCU.
As a character, Steven Strange took some time getting used to, not only because you have to tune yourself into an American Benedict Cumberbatch. As a potential power player in the MCU, it was disconcerting to see early on that he appeared to be going through the cycle of egotistical know it all falling into life altering crisis, all while doing so with sarcasm and whit akin to that of an early Tony Stark. With that I struggled initially to see Strange as anything other than a copycat.
Fortunately as the film went on and more characters came into the mix, I relaxed into the story of Strange a little more. His internal power struggle between right and wrong, selfless and selfish is much stronger than anything Stark played with, and some beautiful dialogue exchanges with Tilda Swinton made that character development all the more powerful. It was understandable that many were angered by the white washing of her Sorcerer Supreme, but that aside, she brought the best out this film.
For me, as it always is with these superhero films, it’s the dialogue exchanges that stand at the heart of it, and the action is often nothing more decorative. Doesn’t matter how you dress up a turd, it’s still a turd at the end of the day. Saying that, Doctor Strange does bring something different to the party with its use of magic and twisted, almost psychotropic sequences. When they landed well they were amazing to watch, with Strange’s first experience of alternative dimensions being a stand out. That said, some of the action did run a bit on the blurry side, and even though the kaleidoscopic New York was interesting for a few seconds, it gave me little more than Inception deja vu.
Even though I can nitpick all day, it’s hard to argue the scope of the film, and director Scott Derrickson deserves credit for being able to play around with space and time and not completely baffle a mainstream audience. Yet, even with those added features and new MacGuffins Doctor Strange is formulaic, predictable and even has the baddie as a stepping stone rather than a rival. However, being formulaic in this case is not a bad thing. Doctor Strange is as enjoyable as any Marvel film and the character himself is dealt with perfectly, to the point where you’re excited for him to get involved with the big boys. As we get closer to the crescendo of Infinity War, Doctor Strange plays its part by piling on more excitement and expectation. If the Marvel train keeps picking up speed, I honestly can’t fathom the energy its taking into that final station.