‘Doctor Strange’ (Film)

‘DOCTOR STRANGE’

Please feel free to comment on my review.

Doctor Strange Arrives

Jameson: (talking about Otto Octavius) “What are we gonna call this guy?”
Hoffman: “Err…err…Doctor Octopus?”
Jameson: “Na, that’s crap.”
Hoffman: “Um…err…Science Squid?”
Jameson: “Crap!”
Hoffman: “Doctor Strange!”
Jameson: “That’s pretty good…”
Hoffman smiles pleased.
Jameson: (continues) “But it’s taken!”

‘Spider-Man 2’

This was one ‘strange’ movie to see through at the cinema!

Back in November 2016, I saw the Marvel superhero movie ‘Doctor Strange’ at the cinema! I enjoyed seeing this film, although it was unlike any Marvel superhero movie I’d seen before. Some of it was pretty ‘strange’ as befits the movie title. It was also weird in terms of the visuals and the storytelling.

I saw this film at the cinema in Cardiff with my best mate Stephen. It was a happy time seeing this movie and I’d completed my first full year of ‘Bradley’s Basement’ at the time. Having seen this film again though and reflecting on when I saw it first time, I cannot claim it to be a great superhero film.

I didn’t purchase ‘Doctor Strange’ when it came out on DVD/Blu-ray at around March 2017 after it was shown at cinemas in November 2016. I had it given to me by my parents as part of the ‘Marvel Studios Cinematic Universe – Phase Three: Part One’ DVD box set for Christmas 2018. That was nice! 😀

‘Doctor Strange’ stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange. The film was directed by Scott Derrickson. The film also features Chiwetel Ejiofor as Karl Mordo; Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer; Benedict Wong as Wong; Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius and Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One.

The movie is about a surgeon named Dr. Stephen Strange who suffers a car accident that paralyses his abilities with his hands. In order to find a purpose again, Strange goes to Kamar-Taj in Kathmandu, Nepal. There he trains in the arts of sorcery and he soon becomes a mystical superhero.

At the time of seeing this movie at the cinema in November 2016, I admit I wasn’t very familiar with the comic book story origins of Doctor Strange and I’m still none the wiser. I did come across him in a few Spider-Man comics and I saw him in an episode in the 1990s ‘Spider-Man’ animated TV series.

I did enjoy some of the character drama that was going on in this movie, especially between Stephen Strange and his former lover Christine Palmer. But I did find some of the CGI effects rather dazzling and confusing to watch. These were of course meant to illustrate that this was a really ‘strange’ film.

No puns intended of course. 😀 This is definitely a superhero movie full of weird proportions. The film is more of an origins story and an introduction to a new superhero for the cinema goers. This of course meant that there weren’t a lot of action sequences to be seen in the film throughout for me.

Doctor Strange was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, the same comic book duo who created Spider-Man. The character made his first comic book appearance in ‘Strange Tales #110’ in July 1963. With that said, I do not think you need to read any ‘Doctor Strange’ comics to know who he is.

When my Mum saw this movie, she found it quite dark especially with there being themes of mysticism and magic connected to a superhero like Doctor Strange. There were aspects to the movie that I enjoyed, but I wouldn’t class this as a masterpiece compared to many other superhero movies.

It’s certainly not like one of the original ‘Spider-Man’ movies with Tobey Maguire. It certainly was an interesting movie experience to get into with being introduced to a new superhero on the big screen. I can’t claim to how other people saw this film, but I found it an underwhelming experience.

I can’t claim to be a great Marvel superheroes expert when I used to be as a teenager. There have of course been too many films made in the ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’ so far. It makes me wonder how they can keep this up with many tales and feature many superhero films for today’s audiences.

As I’ve indicated, the CGI effects tended to vary for me. This is especially when concerning the jumps into other dimensions and alternative realities. You really have to be clued in as to what’s going on. And sometimes even for a film about 115 minutes in length; that can be a challenge to process here.

I did enjoy that time loop sequence featured at the end of the movie as I found it rather interesting, entertaining and cool to watch. This is especially when Doctor Strange kept trying to make a bargain with the villain Dormammu and he was using the infinity stone of time, as this turned out, to do this.

Very often, the CGI effects distracted from the character drama that was going on in the film to which I was enjoying. Sadly that meant that the supporting cast did seem rather limited in terms of character development, compared to Benedict Cumberbatch. He was receiving the main treatment.

Speaking of which, I enjoyed Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance as Doctor Strange. Benedict excels in his superhero role. He’s well-known for BBC’s ‘Sherlock’ TV series and he did the ‘Doctor Who’ audio CD called ‘Forty Five’ with Sylvester McCoy. He also did Khan in ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’.

Khan: “My name is…KHAN…”

(holds up hand; dismissively) Yeah, yeah. We remember.

Timelord007: (yells) NO!!!!!!!!!!!!

And he would rather forget. 😀

Like I said, I’m not familiar with the comic book story of Doctor Strange, but Benedict’s performance helped me to enjoy the character’s journey throughout this movie. Benedict does look pretty good as Doctor Strange, matching to how he appears in the comics and him wearing the magical red cape.

Benedict Cumberbatch is a very good actor and I found him giving a standout performance as Doctor Strange. You can appreciate why Stephen Strange was doing what he’s doing in the training of magic arts under the Ancient One’s teaching. I found this superb to watch through Benedict’s performance.

The cast also includes Chiwetel Ejiofor as Karl Mordo, who I found very good here. Chiwetel Ejiofor would later go on to voice Scar in the 2019 remake of ‘The Lion King’. 😀 I found his character of Mordo interesting in the movie, as he befriends Stephen Strange and assists him during his training.

I’ve come across Mordo before since in the comics, he happens to be an adversary of Doctor Strange and working for Dormammu. This is confirmed in the appearances he made in the ‘Spider-Man’ 1990s TV series. The film version of Mordo is different, especially as he’s a black man and not white.

Not that I question the casting of a black man to play Mordo, as again I found Chiwetel Ejiofor very good. His development into turning into the dark side does take a while, as it’s only when he decides to leave Strange and Wong at the end. This could have been disappointing for ‘Doctor Strange’ fans.

Rachel McAdams stars as Christine Palmer, Stephen Strange’s former love interest in the film. I don’t think the romance element is quite evident and it would’ve been nice to see more of what went on between them in flashbacks. Sadly the CGI effects and Stephen’s training in magic arts distracts that.

This is a shame as it lessens Christine’s role apart from helping out at times when Stephen needs her for hospital emergencies. Rachel McAdams also seems to be a lovely actress and I can’t help feel her appearance was redundant. She did the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ films with Robert Downey Jr. apparently.

From what I’ve read, Christine Palmer’s character was in the short-lived ‘Night Nurse’ comic series from 1972 to 1973. Not the ‘Doctor Strange’ comics. In fact, Doctor Strange had a totally different love interest in Clea in the comics, not Christine Palmer. That’s pretty unusual to discover, isn’t it? 😀

Benedict Wong stars as…Wong (yeah, seriously), who is a master of the mystic arts at Kamar-Taj. When Stephen Strange meets him, he’s like the librarian who protects some of Kamar-Taj’s most valuable relics and books. His character seems unusual to say the least as Strange gets to knows him.

For one thing, Wong doesn’t seem to be a man of many laughs. So when Strange attempts to make a joke, he’s always stone-faced. There is a moment when he laughs at the end, but it seems to come out of nowhere. He does turn out to be a good ally with Dr. Strange in the fight against Dormammu.

He does seem to pretty knowledgeable about the rules and lore of mystic arts when he shares them to Strange at Kamar-Taj. I’m not sure I found Wong to be a standout character in the movie, but the fact he’s helpful to Strange in finding out what is going on seems to make of him potential use here.

Mads Mikkelsen stars as the villainous Kaecilius in the film. He was in the James Bond film ‘Casino Royale’ from 2006. I can’t say I found Kaecilius an inspiring villain to watch in the film. It turns out that he was once a master of the mystic arts who’d broken away from the Ancient One in Kamar-Taj.

At the beginning of the film, he stole a book from the library at Kamar-Taj to help him and his followers with the arising of Dormmammu from the Dark Dimension. But in terms of understanding his motivations as a character, I’m not sure I do. They weren’t properly explored to enjoy in the film.

You know that he’s the bad guy because he starts off doing a bad thing by killing someone and stealing a book. You later know he’s still a bad guy because he has horrid-looking make-up and is fighting Doctor Strange. But I don’t find Kaecilius to be a great villain since I don’t know much about him.

Tilda Swinton stars as the Ancient One, a Celtic mystic who becomes Strange’s mentor in the film. Be careful she doesn’t turn you into stone, Strange! Oh yeah! Tilda Swinton played the White Witch in ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ films from 2005 to 2010. It’s a good thing that I recognised her in this film. 😀

Now over the years, I’ve heard criticisms being raised about making the Ancient One a Celtic woman in the movie instead of a Tibetan man as in the comics. That’s something I wouldn’t have registered when watching the film for the first time. But on reflection, yeah I can see why fans would be upset.

Tilda Swinton is a great actress and I enjoyed her performance here. She also doesn’t do a bad job playing the character she’s asked to play. But like what they did with the Mandarin in ‘Iron Man 3’, I appreciate people getting upset. It makes it a less faithful comic book adaptation of ‘Doctor Strange’.

The film also features Michael Stuhlbarg as Nicodemus West, who is a rival surgeon to Strange at the beginning of the film. I can’t really say much about him apart from making an error in pronouncing a patient dead early on the film. He also doesn’t do anything standout for the rest of the film anyway.

There’s also Benjamin Bratt as Jonathan Pangborn, who learned how to heal himself through the mystic arts from the Ancient One. Apart from directing Stephen Strange to Kamar-Taj in Nepal, there’s not much I can say about this character. He does play basketball when Strange meets him. 😀

There’s Scott Adkins as Lucian, one of Kaecilius’ followers. Wait! Which one? There were quite a number of them. What, the one who stabbed Strange and he got attacked by Strange’s magic cloak? Well, how was I supposed to know that? There wasn’t much of a character for him to stand out here.

The film also features another funny cameo by Stan Lee. He plays a bus rider reading a book whilst Doctor Strange and Mordo are outside during a ‘strange’ fight scene happening in New York city by Kaecilius and his followers. Honestly, I was able to enjoy Stan Lee’s cameo more than the fight scene.

There’s also the villainous Dormammu, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch in the film. Whilst I enjoyed the time loop scene between Strange and Dormammu, I thought Dormammu could’ve been made more convincing than he was on the big screen and he didn’t look like Dormammu from the comics.

The creative choices made by director Scott Derrickson in terms of the action sequences combined with dazzling CGI effects made it less enjoyable for me. It was hard for me to enjoy what there was of the action with so many peculiarly odd effects that were hard to comprehend as I was watching it.

It was pretty surreal, strange and interesting when we had our characters outside of their bodies and on the astral plane. This is especially when Strange himself is fighting Lucian on the astral plane whilst Christine Palmer was saving Strange’s life in the real world since he got severally injured there.

The astral plane stuff also happens when Strange is talking to the Ancient One who gets severely injured during the New York battle by Kaecilius and she tragically dies by the end. It did seem like an emotional moment when she died, but that isn’t to say the rest of the film was emotionally charged.

Even by the time we came to the climax, I felt underwhelmed. There was no reunion scene between Stephen Strange and Christine Palmer over what happened. It was just putting things back in the box for Strange and Wong and that’s it. The emotional connections needed to be made were so lacking.

The Blu-ray special features of ‘Doctor Strange’ are as follows. There’s an audio commentary with writer/director Scott Derrickson and featurettes including ‘A Strange Transformation’; ‘Strange Company’, ‘The Fabric of Reality’, ‘Across Time and Space’ and ‘The Score-cerer Supreme’. There’s also the ‘Marvel Studios Phase 3 Exclusive Look’; ‘Team Thor; Part 2’ (why couldn’t they have put ‘Part 1’ on the ‘Captain America: Civil War’ Blu-ray?); deleted scenes and a gag reel.

‘Doctor Strange’ was an enjoyable Marvel superhero movie to watch at the cinema, although I wouldn’t consider it as the best. There’s no doubt however that Doctor Strange will return, since he’s now a part of the ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’ series shown at the cinema. Will it ever stop?! 😀

There’s a mid credits scene where Doctor Strange helps Chris Hemsworth as Thor as well as his brother Loki to search for his father Odin. In a post-credits scene, Mordo confronts Pangborn and he steals the mystical energy he uses to walk before telling him that the Earth has ‘too many sorcerers’.

‘DOCTOR STRANGE WILL RETURN’ Yes! I believe I just said that, didn’t I? 😀 In fact, he’ll return for ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ and two ‘Avengers’ films. As for a second ‘Doctor Strange’ film, well…it’s a coincidence that I write this review after ‘Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness’ has been announced. 😀

‘Doctor Strange’ rating – 6/10


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2 thoughts on “‘Doctor Strange’ (Film)

  1. Timelord 007

    Arrrgh, i was underwhelmed & disappointed with this movie which felt was very rushed, Benedict Cumberbatch is excellent in the title role but i found the other character arcs rushed, the Ancient One supposedly all powerful is quickly beaten by Kaecilius, Stephen Strange quickly evolves his powers like a zen master & Chiwetel Ejiofor as Karl Mordo i thought was monotone while poor Rachel McAdams is only their to be throwaway love interest.

    The climax i felt was underwhelming with Stranges final battle against Doramammu a CGI mess & overall was in my opinion a weak Marvel movie.

    As always excellent review Tim, you put a lot of effort into your reviews which are always a pleasure to read I’m just sorry i can’t be more praising of this film.

    P.S loved my cameo it made my day.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Simon.

      Yeah, not one of the best MCU movies in my humble opinion. It had potential but it lacked emotional drama and like you said did feel rather rushed. I must admit I found it a challenge writing this review in finding out standout moments for each character including Rachel McAdams’ Christine Palmer. It did seem to me that the villains weren’t that well-developed especially Kaecilius and Dormammu.

      The CGI effects weren’t all that spectacular even if they did provide that strange weirdness that was required for a film like this. I still think the time loop idea was quite clever. Such a shame Dormammu’s realisation on screen was a mess.

      Very pleased you enjoyed my review, Simon. Thank you for sharing your kind comments on how I’ve reviewed this movie. Benedict Cumberbatch is still good as Doctor Strange though.

      Glad you liked the cameo I gave you. I couldn’t resist especially as we reviewed ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ this year. 😀

      Tim. 🙂

      Like

      Reply

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