The 2016 film Doctor Strange, directed by Scott Derrickson, follows the canonical Marvel Comics story of Dr. Stephen Strange, a talented neurosurgeon who went east in search of healing for his hands, which are destroyed following a terrifying car accident. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, along with Chiwetel Ejiofor and Rachel McAdams, the film features Cumberbatch as an arrogant, self-absorbed doctor who, when confronted with the non-scientific healing offered by ‘The Ancient One,’ initially rejects it as ridiculous. The rest of the film follows Strange as he turns around and learns from the mystics how to master mystical arts and fight the forces of the dark dimension and Dormammu, its ruler.
I thought this was an excellent film for several reasons which I will elaborate. Thoughcertain elements bothered me, these issues were mostly the deviances from the Marvel Comic canon, and ultimately insignificant. The success of the film, as the 11th Most Valuable Blockbuster of 2016 and the 90% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes are since it is restrained by the MCU as a blockbuster film and yet managed to ultimately hold on to the crucial elements of Doctor Strange’s origin story and Marvel canon. Keeping so much of the story was, I thought, crucial to the success of the film and my 5-star rating. The movie brilliantly described the arrogance of the character and his horrifying car accident (also due to arrogance as he was driving like an idiot) which resulted in the injury that was so detrimental to his career – and thus his self-esteem – that it made him go east in search of healing greater than anything he’d encountered in his time as a surgeon.
The second reason for the excellence of this film falls in the acting and casting. Cumberbatch did an excellent job as an arrogant doctor, and manages to balance the character’s attitude with his deeper kindness which comes out as he is forced to kill one of the enemies in the film, and he explains to Mordo why he can’t do that anymore as a doctor. Despite such noble convictions, Cumberbatch does not lose the arrogance. McAdams did not play a large part in the movie, but performed her role well as the concerned but frustrated love-interest. My favorite of the actors, however, was Tilda Swinton, who played ‘The Ancient One,’ diverging from the canonical male Nepali character, Swinton plays a wise and excellent female Celtic sorceress who can enter the mirror dimension, which brings me to the most important reason for the excellence of the film.
The visual effects of Doctor Strange outclass almost anything I’ve ever seen in a film, and is rated higher than such movies as Inception and Intersteller, two blockbuster films known for visual effects. As ‘The Ancient One’ distorts the mirror dimension and the entire city twists sideways and buildings bend and turn to trap and crush characters, and the Dark Dimension infiltrates the Earthly plane, I can only imagine what it must have been like in IMAX.
It is ultimately for these three reasons that I praise the movie so highly, and the critics seem to agree – though some critique the films reliance on the familiar Marvel core narrative. I don’t find this to be an issue, as the film is made for those looking for another film like Marvel’s traditional blockbusters but with incredibly imaginative features.