Directed by Scott Derrickson
Written by Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott Adkins, Mads Mikkelsen and Tilda Swinton
“Doctor Strange” is Marvel’s strange (pun obviously intended) cocktail of psychedelia and superheroes, and like a Jack and Coke or a Mimosa, a fantastic cocktail it is. Marvel has slowly been expanding their cinematic universe to cover a plethora of genres under the guise of a superhero movie. “Doctor Strange” is at once backtracking to a standard superhero movie and a huge leap forward for what Marvel is capable of within their universe.
“Doctor Strange” is your standard introduction of a new superhero into the universe movie with little else to offer beyond that. To the film’s credit, the character of Doctor Strange is a great character, and I would like to see how Marvel handles the character moving forward. Benedict Cumberbatch was great as Strange; he could have easily just rehashed the kind of performance he gave in “The Imitation Game” – Strange and Alan Turning could be played in a similar fashion – instead he gives a performance that shows his skill with humor. Even though there are times where it does feel a little Robert Downey Jr.-esque, Cumberbatch is certainly an excellent addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Doctor Strange” is the standard backstory of Strange, who he is, how he gets his powers, learning his powers and finally, using newly learned powers to save the day.
Cumberbatch alone does not make the movie; a stellar supporting cast surrounds him. An outstanding ensemble is an essential element to any good, or for that matter, great movie. The ensemble in “Doctor Strange” contains great performances from Mads Mikkelsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Tilda Swinton and Rachel McAdams. All of the supporting players carry their weight and by no means slack off, even though Mikkelsen is a bit underutilized.
If “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” of the MCU, “Doctor Strange” is “The Magical Mystery Tour.” “Winter Soldier” is arguably the best movie in the MCU, “Doctor Strange” is all out, pull no punches psychedelic experiment. The greatest part about “Doctor Strange” is the film’s production design. The production design of “Doctor Strange” – much like the design of Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” – is an M.C. Escher piece come to life. Unlike a lot of movies released recently, “Doctor Strange” deserves to be seen in 3D. The last film that warranted 3D was “Avatar,” which ironically ignited the recent 3D renaissance. I believe that the visuals will lose some of their punch with a standard 2D viewing.
Given the prime November release date of “Doctor Strange” and your definition of Oscar contender, it is easy to say that this could be Marvel’s first Oscar contender, as the Oscar season starts in November. I will say I could easily see nominations for visual fx and production design and maybe an outside chance for Michael Giacchino’s score. Even factoring the release date, you will not see “Doctor Strange” in any of the big categories. So, sorry fanboys but superhero movies will not yet crack the Best Picture category.
“Doctor Strange” is a solid addition to the MCU, even if it is only a run of the mill superhero origin story. And yes, this means that the best Dr. Strange is still the one that ends with love.