What a silly movie. That’s its main emotional impact on leaving the theatre. It’s full of sound and fury and so on, but it just invites mockery. For example, when Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton are standing face to face, it’s like they are having a fight over who looks the most like an alien. Nothing about this movie is anything other than plain silly. I have to say, I am a bit disappointed by that.
On a serious note, the first hour offers us the skeleton of an origin story. By the numbers, ticking off the boxes, just like Ant-Man for example. And on this skeleton is painted a demo reel of Marvel Studios’ latest special effects technology. So, Benedict Cumberbatch plays Dr. House, who is named Dr. Strange in this movie, and he’s a real dick to people. He gets in an accident, can no longer do his job as a surgeon and then talks to a guy on the street about a magical temple in Kathmandu. I thought that the basketball playing dude was pulling his leg. That’s what it sounded like! “Sure Mr. Strange, I uhhh… went to Nepal and uhhh… learned to channel my powers, hehehe.” At any moment, I expected him to burst out in laughter, but he was serious. So, Dr. Strange travels to Kathmandu to learn magic.
From the moment that The Ancient One (sigh) touches Strange’s forehead, the special effects demo reel starts playing. Remember when Ant-Man went sub-atomic? Sort of like that, but sillier. The effects look great, very inventive, but often most of these effects play out in the background of the characters. There is interaction in an Inception-like way now and then, but I still got that sense of characters pasted in front of a rendered visualization of fractals.
I’m surprised too that the story revolving around the magic dimensions has almost no relation to the world that he left behind. You see, Dr. Strange was being an enormous dick in the first half hour. He had a wonderful, charming colleague/girlfriend in Christine (Rachel McAdams), and he doesn’t appreciate what he has. You’d expect that at the end of the film, the bad guy (Mads Mikkelsen) would involve Strange’s past or something. I’d expected him to take Christine hostage; that’s how these films usually go. I mean, that would have been cliché as well, but the main conflict has little to do with anything that came before, and nothing with the person he used to be. Did he learn anything? Maybe.
So, the two main virtues of the film are its visuals and its comedy. Again, like Ant-Man. Funny characters, funny physical comedy. This is very much in the comic book spirit; it’s taking some silly ideas and having fun with it. Therefore, Doctor Strange isn’t a bad movie per se. It has chosen a certain spirit, sticks to it and executes it very well. It’s just that if the visuals and comedy are the only two pillars supporting the movie, then it feels so lightweight.
Highlights for me were some of the visuals and the scenes with Rachel McAdams. She’s just lost in this strange magical world and she supplies some great humor. I wish the adversaries were more interesting. Mads Mikkelsen is an amazing actor, but his character was very one-dimensional, and there is an ultimate evil named Dormammu who is like a Galactus, and very cartoony. I am being quite negative in this review but it is still easy to like a lot of it if you don’t expect too much.