The long-anticipated “Doctor Strange” hit theaters this weekend, the latest superhero movie in the Marvel cinematic universe. Raking in $85 million in its opening weekend alone, “Doctor Strange” has already had a wildly successful run.
The film centers on the title character, Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a cocky neurosurgeon in New York City. Renowned for his skills, he wastes no time on indulging himself in the luxuries that his title brings.
Everything in Strange’s life comes crashing down around him, however, after a catastrophic car crash leads him to losing the functionality of his hands. Desperate to restore the life he once knew, Strange sets out on a quest to heal his hands through any means possible.
After trying everything modern medicine has to offer, Strange eventually follows a path that leads him to The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), a sorcerer who teaches Strange that there is far more to the world than what he thinks.
After joining the institute, Strange soon finds himself embroiled in a battle with the evil Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelson) and his zealots, bent on bringing Earth into the Dark Dimension. Attempting to harness the magic he has learned, Strange finds himself responsible for preventing the world from being thrust into darkness.
As a Marvel movie, “Doctor Strange” does follow the basic formula that each film adheres to, i.e., plenty of fight scenes, lots of inner turmoil and charismatic sidekicks. But somehow, it is able to tweak that tired formula just enough to make the movie feel fresh.
The visuals in the film alone are unique for the Marvel universe. The magic of the sorcerers allows them to shift reality, so many of the big fight scenes involve buildings being flipped on their sides, or floors and ceilings reversing as gravity is thrown out the window. It could get a little dizzying at times, but many of the major scenes in the film play out as near optical illusions due to all the moving parts.
The opening battle between The Ancient One and Kaecilius and his zealots was easily one of the most memorable scenes in the movie. The sorcerers were able to conjure up magic weapons and turn skyscrapers inside out all in one fluid hand gesture. Within the first five minutes of the movie, you already know that this would not be just another superhero film.
As far as characters go, Cumberbatch’s Strange is a more flawed hero than usual. Wildly arrogant and unabashedly self-centered, his character development comes off as rather abrupt. He had to change his goal from fixing his hands to fixing the world, but his motivation was never quite as clear as I wanted it to be.
The backstory of the film was a little lacking. Audience members might feel thrown into the deep end of this magical universe with not much history to work with. The world that Dr. Strange floats into is complicated, with lore and relics and other dimensions that are not given much explanation. It is still easy to enjoy the movie, but it can feel like you are missing out on some supplementary knowledge.
Despite its flaws, “Doctor Strange” is a mystical cinematic adventure, reminiscent of the typical Marvel movie, but with just enough magic to make it stand out. It is weird, and that is what it makes it good.