review by Bobby Blakey
After Marvel shook things up in Phase 3 with Captain America: Civil War, things are never going to be the same. Now Marvel is heading into an unexplored area of the Marvel Cinematic Universe taking on the world of magic with Doctor Strange featuring a great cast including Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen, Benedict Wong, and Scott Adkins, but can it successfully bring the magic to Marvel or will it be a spell not worth casting?
The film follows the story of world-famous neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange whose life changes forever after a horrific car accident robs him of the use of his hands. When traditional medicine fails him, he is forced to look for healing, and hope, in an unlikely place—a mysterious enclave known as Kamar-Taj. He quickly learns that this is not just a center for healing but also the front line of a battle against unseen dark forces bent on destroying our reality. Before long Strange, armed with newly acquired magical powers—is forced to choose whether to return to his life of fortune and status or leave it all behind to defend the world as the most powerful sorcerer in existence. I have to be honest I am not a huge Doctor Strange fan so had little invested in the character going into this film. Much like my thoughts on Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy I was pleasantly surprised by the film that they delivered. This has the perfect set up for the origin of the character allowing it to unfold as opposed to rushing through parts that some might think are a waste of time. It’s these moments that really make you understand who Strange is both before and after taking up the mantle of the Sorcerer Supreme.
Throughout his training it becomes clear pretty early on that this film is going to be heavily about faith making it probably the deepest Marvel film to date without ever trying to sway you in a specific direction, but instead about the importance of it. With the magic and faith nature thrust together I was curious how they were going to make this mesh with the rest of the Marvel Universe and they did so pretty well. It is a standalone film all it’s own, but they throw in some Easter Eggs to make sure you remember that it is still a part of that same universe. The cast is all great here with Cumberbatch probably being the best casting of a Marvel character since Robert Downey Jr. He looks like he jumped right out of the comic and brings some of the same snarky attitude, but rest assured this is a different character and not just a carbon copy. I really loved Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One. Sure the character was an Asian in the comic, but the non-gender look gave the character a new level, but I was hoping they would never refer to her as a female so it would have left it more ambiguous but of course they did anyway. There are other characters that are changed from the comic as well, but most for the better and all work pretty darn well to bring this new world to life.
Going in, I was concerned from the trailers about the building bending aspect and how that would play into the film and they did some interesting things with it that makes it work. This is probably the heaviest CGI film outside of Guardians of the Galaxy in the Marvel Universe to date and it is beautiful to behold. You cannot bring the world of Doctor Strange to life without the astral plane and insane feats of magic and here they managed to pull it off perfectly. There is a great fight in full on astral mode that had me cheering both in seeing that aspect be fully utilized, but also getting to see martial arts action star Scott Adkins in action in a Marvel film once again. One thing that surprised me more than anything is how martial arts heavy this film was. Every moment not just using spells to fight and even most using them used forms of martial arts fighting between complete with training to use it as well with all of them really well executed.
If there were any complaints it had to be the lack of real punch at times. While I loved every aspect of the film I was waiting for those big cheer worthy moments and never really got them. The first time you see him in full on Sorcerer mode is great, but I was hoping for a bigger impact. There is a lot of humor here and there that is a bit silly and does work, but might not for everyone. One of the big complaints about a lot of the Marvel films are the villains themselves and that will likely be an issue for some here to as they felt a bit generic and didn’t bring anything all that special to the table. Thankfully this film is filled with so much awesomeness you can let some of the smaller things go. The ending obviously sets things up for us to move forward to see more of Strange in his proper role so it will be interesting to see where they plan to go, but for now it is a strong introduction and entry to Marvel’s Phase 3. As always sit through the credits as this one offers up two after credit sequences that move both this new series and the bigger world further forward.
This release will not only include the mind bending film, but a magical array of bonus features including deleted scenes, gag reel, commentary, numerous featurettes and an exclusive first look at Marvel Studios Phase 3. Join the mystical side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Doctor Strangeavailable now on Digital HD and then Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack, Blu-ray, and DVD on February 28th from Marvel Entertainment.