By Sebastian Moronta Blanco, Staff Writer
Doctor Strange is Marvel’s latest entry in their long-running, interconnected comic book franchise known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU.
The movie features Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton, and Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Doctor Stephen Strange.
The film centers on Stephen Strange, a brilliant and successful neurosurgeon who suffered severe damage to his hands after a brutal car accident and loses his ability to practice medicine. He travels the world in search of a cure, but instead finds there is much more to the universe than he once thought.
With the help of the Ancient One, a powerful sorcerer charged with protecting our reality, he practices magic to defend our universe from what lies beyond.
Up until now, the MCU has grounded its fantastical characters in science and technology, rarely exploring magical concepts, which is why Doctor Strange stands out from the crowd.
Comic book films are not in short supply as of late, as this will be the sixth just this year.
Beyond that, Hollywood in recent years has entered a trend of sequels, reboots, and remakes that often has movie-goers fed up with seeing so much of the same. This is why it’s a refreshing surprise sitting in a theater seat holding a Doctor Strange ticket stub and experiencing something truly new.
The film is genuinely original in its execution, delivering a story in a familiar place but in a very unfamiliar way. Magic in movies has been popularized by classic franchises like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, but never as depicted in Doctor Strange.
Instead of the clichéd wands and wizard caps, this movie’s take on magic uses a firmly different approach that’s both interesting and exhilarating.
Doctor Strange excels in two places, the first of which is the visual effects.
A way that this movie expresses its originality is through its extensive yet not exhausting use of CGI to create mind-bending shifting landscapes and environments throughout.
The effects are purposeful, and contribute to the story in meaningful ways. Some of the trippy visuals are reminiscent of yet distinct from technology-defining titles from this age of film-making such as Avatar and Inception, and are one of the best excuses in recent history to splurge on a 3D or (better yet) IMAX ticket.
The film is also carried by the performances of its cast, composed of many celebrated and versatile actors.
Benedict Cumberbatch has continued to prove himself as a leading man in recent years, becoming a household name while demonstrating his immense talent with recent roles in BBC’s Sherlock, Star Trek Into Darkness, and The Imitation Game for which he was nominated for an Oscar.
He follows suit in this film, dynamically bringing Stephen Strange to the screen and holding his own amongst Oscar nominated Chiwetel Ejiofor and Oscar winning actress Tilda Swinton.
These performances are highlighted by the more intimate storytelling techniques used in this film, as it only focuses on a choice few characters.
Doctor Strange is a new kind of origin story that looks and feels distinct from those that have come before, and its only drawback is the one thing that this film shares with the rest of its family of comic book titles: comedy.
A common criticism of the MCU is its insistence on a comedic, light-hearted tone felt throughout the franchise, and that is present throughout this film. It frequently breaks tension and suspense with a quick joke for an easy laugh, occasionally at the story’s expense.
Overall this movie is a revitalizing entry into the ever-expanding realm of comic book films that has the potential to ease the fatigue some already feel from the genre.
One can’t help but give props to the creative team for committing so wholly to bringing a genuinely different experience, and for that reason, one shouldn’t count this film as just another one of the pack.