DOCTOR STRANGE

Who exactly is this guy?

I’ll admit, it was initially difficult to muster the excitement even the most amateur of armchair Marvel fans should possess in the time leading up to the release of Doctor Strange, the latest offering from Marvel Studios and the umpteenth entry in the vast, interconnected Cinematic Universe kicked off by 2008’s Iron Man and, prior to Strange, most recently seen in blockbuster fashion thanks to this year’s Captain America: Civil War.  Sure, the trailers looked decent and the cast was promising, but much like the dud that was this year’s Suicide Squad, I went into Doctor Strange with hardly any pre-existing knowledge of the character’s backstory & a very neutral anticipation level of what I was about to see.

Was that a good thing?  I’m honestly not sure.  

The story pays tribute to the slew of superhero origin stories that precede it, with the enigmatic Benedict Cumberbatch portraying Stephen Strange, a cocky, egotistical, wealthy (sound familiar?) neurosurgeon who, following a car accident that renders him unable to continue in the practice of medicine, finds himself travelling the world in search of any cure for his ailment, eventually coming into contact with the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and sidekick Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor).  Thanks to their tutelage, Strange not only learns the ways of the mystic arts, but finds himself in a battle with Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), an outcast bent on world domination through the unlocking of the Dark Dimension and relationship with the evil Dormammu…now I’m confusing myself.

Once again, Marvel has brought to life a fairly generic story wrapped in a bevy of beautiful special effects, one that deserves to be seen in 3-D (despite the fact that the oft-intense visuals during the fight scenes may honestly cause a bit of a headache).  The cast, especially Swinton and Ejiofor, perform well, followed somewhat by Cumberbatch, who seems to struggle with his American accent and can’t help but play a caricature of Robert Downey, Jr. ‘s Tony Stark for the most part.  Smaller roles are filled aptly by Benjamin Bratt & Benedict Wong, while Rachel McAdams as the obligatory love interest joins the pantheon of Great Actresses Cast In Dull Parts In Marvel Films and Mads Mikkelsen similarly rounds out the unfortunately lengthy list of Talented Actors Playing Disappointing Marvel Villains.  There’s no other way to say it-in the case of both individuals, a tremendous amount of talent is wasted, with McAdams having been given a generic role that wastes her Oscar nominated talent and Mikkelsen bringing to life yet another villain that has much in common with nearly every underwhelming baddie in the past almost-decade of Marvel films and never once reaches the levels of filmdom’s greatest foes, such as Heath Ledger’s Joker in 2008’s The Dark Knight or even Tom Hiddleston’s engaging Loki, arguably a bright spot on a roster of dismal rogues.  It doesn’t even match up to his turn as James Bonds’ nemesis Le Chiffre in 2006’s Casino Royale.  Oddly enough, one of the best characters ends up being the sentient cloak Strange dons during a battle with Kaecilius, which is both nerdishly fun and simultaneously disappointing with regards to the rest of the cast-when a CG piece of clothing out acts the man who played Hannibal Lecter, that’s a problem.

Nevertheless, director Scott Derrickson seems to be trying his best, and Michael Giacchino provides a score that deftly compliments the action despite being loaded with (un)intentional cues to his previous work.  The script unfortunately bogs itself down in loads of terminology specific to the comic, which is to be expected, and makes every effort to stand on its own two feet while connecting to the larger MCU as a whole-yes, they discuss Infinity Stones, and yes, I’m starting to not care about what are beginning to amount to nothing more than exaggerated MacGuffins.  Fortunately, future adventures are set up in two post credits scenes, the first of which may honestly be better than much of Doctor Strange.

Fans of the MCU should probably give the film a view, but even if the time isn’t set aside to watch Doctor Strange you’re not missing much.  See it for an acceptable cast, excellent special effects, a passable score and a film that’s technically sound overall.  Don’t see it for everything else.

Strange…that’s a good way to describe it.