So here we are again. Another b-list Marvel character getting their time in the sun. Another movie from Marvel Studios that’s considered a “risk”. And yet another insanely entertaining entry into the MCU cannon.
Sorry to skip any tension in the beginning of my review but I think it’s high time we need to stop waiting with baited breath with every release and just except that the Marvel family simply know what the Hell they are doing.
On first inspection, Doc Strange doesn’t come anywhere near ground-breaking in regards to it’s well worn origin story plot. Dude’s an egotistical, if gifted, asshole, gets in a humbling altercation with fate and rebuilds himself as a reluctant hero with newly acquired abilities. But where the basics tread somewhat uncomfortably close to the original Iron Man (both heroes even sport similarly awesome face fuzz) it’s the truly world class visuals that elevate the well worn material into a vigorous must-see. Take Inception, The Matrix and even the realm-hopping slug fest at the end of Thor 2 and you’re not even halfway there.
Energy manipulation, gravity warping, multiple realities (ripped right from the page of Steve Ditko splash page), astral projection, it’s all employed during the vastly entertaining action scenes that threaten to be among the best of the year. A ghostly, hospital set fist fight recalls Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners and a chase across a M.C. Escher inspired New York are inventive kick ass highlights.
Holding it all together is Scott Derickson’s clear direction and the impressive cast. Cumberbatch deploys all the Sherlock based charm that make Strange such a likeable butt head and Tilda Swinton employs all that Tilda Swinton otherworldlyness to portray The Ancient One. Rachel McAdams, Chitwetel Ejiofor and Mads Mikkelson all use their skills to add depth to their rather thinly sketched characters (yep, the curse of the Marvel villain strikes again with Mikkelson’s Kaecilius just another m zealot in the vein of Ronan and Maliketh).
You can tell when a Marvel movie lands the second you spot stuff you instantly crave more of so if any of the Doctor Strange brain trust is listening, I desire more Wong and MUCH more of the good doctor’s sentient, rather affectionate Cloak Of Levitation (I demand a coupling similar to Aladdin and his carpet POSTHASTE).
So, yeah. While the origin story tropes kind of groan with the stress of familiarity, everything else about Marvel’s 14th movie shows that they still know how to keep everything feeling fresh.
Thanks Marvel, I appreciate the trip.