Directed by Scott Derrickson, Doctor Strange is the fourteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It follows a brilliant but arrogant surgeon named Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) who, after his career is destroyed, goes on a journey of physical and spiritual healing. Under the tutelage of a mystic known as the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), Doctor Strange is drawn into the world of the mystic arts, as he trains to become a powerful sorcerer. Taught to defend the world against evil, he soon finds himself facing one of the Ancient One’s former students, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen).
Doctor Strange may seem like a typical superhero origin film on paper: it begins with a well-off man going through some form of tragedy which then leads to him acquiring his superpowers. He also has a love interest and must face a villain who is threatening the world, and there are the familiar obstacles in his way. But there’s also a lot about this standalone Marvel film that makes it stand out from the others.
One of the most strikingly unique instalments in the MCU and certainly one of the most entertaining, Doctor Strange is almost more of a thriller than a superhero action film, feeling similar to the likes of Inception and The Matrix in tone and plot, as Strange travels through time and bends reality. There’s so much more going for this origin film than the basic formula it is set upon. It’s bizarre and mind-tripping and is exactly how you would want a comic book story to come alive. You can almost see the cloud bubbles popping up on the screen.
And then there are the kaleidoscope effects that the exploration of these other dimensions allows. The trippy scene-bending Mirror Dimension sequences are edited incredibly well, with the action both on and off Earth being some of the most rich and detailed in the franchise so far, adding a whole other level of fun to the story.
The visuals are truly outstanding, but it’s the characters who make the most impact. Doctor Strange is an odd character. He’s not a particularly likeable character in that he’s arrogant and cocky, but then so is Tony Stark and he’s always been a fan favourite. Yet Strange is nothing like Iron Man. He may be as equally driven and dedicated, but he’s less selfish and has stronger loyalties. He’s also unintentionally funny. Marvel is known for handling its humour well amidst all of the action, but Doctor Strange pokes fun at itself in all the right places since it is, at the end of the day, a film about a wizard.
Most of all, Strange is a superhero that we know we’re really going to rely on from here on out. Cumberbatch plays the role perfectly. He’s smug but with a hint of charm, brilliantly introducing us to a character that we know is going to wind up the rest of the Avengers in a great way.
With a supporting cast also including Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, and Benedict Wong, this has to be the most talented cast attached to a Marvel film, as well.