Doctor Strange Review (Spoiler Free)

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By Ben Wright (@iamzavagno | www.xgeeks.co.uk)

Doubters said Marvel were in trouble when they announced Guardians of the Galaxy. Why would anyone want to go and see a niche comic book series involving a talking tree on the big screen? They were wrong.
They were also wrong when Marvel said we were getting a film about a guy who can shrink to the size of an ant. To some, Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy were both seen as films that would mark the downfall of Marvel and the Super Hero genre. It was only after their phenomenal success at the box office, with fans and with critics that the doubters started to realise that maybe Marvel knew what they were doing after all.

Even despite all of this, there were still some who could not see a place of magic and sorcery within the MCU. Once again, wrong. Doctor Strange has been performing very strong at the box office, and it is no surprise to see that once again critics and fans alike are leaving the cinema with smiles on their faces.

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After the first few trailers had landed, the comparisons to Inception and Batman Begins started. At first glance they were a fair comparison to make. But it is only after watching the film itself that you realise how lazy and wrong those comparisons actually are.
While you can point out some similarities between the films, Doctor Strange still manages to separate itself from them and is very much its own film. The kaleidoscopic visuals is very distinctly different to the visuals in Inception.

There is no doubt that the main selling point of Doctor Strange is the psychedelic visuals. What they managed to achieve was simply a feat of technical and visual brilliance. There has never been anything like this in the MCU before and this allows the film to be very distinctive in its own right.  It pushed the boundaries of the MCU and made a good job of introducing an entire new world to us. As we push on to the next phase of the MCU we need embrace the change and direction in which we are heading. Iron Man and Cap won’t be around forever, so now is the time to get these new characters firmly established with the MCU fan base.

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In terms of the cast, there has never been a better ensemble cast than this in the MCU. Even working within the limitations of the ‘Marvel Movie Template’, the calibre of the actors elevated themselves past the usual restrictions.  Benedict Cumberbatch suited the role perfectly, and was able to give a captivating performance. From despair to humour, Strange was a complex character you grew to love as the film progressed.
White washing aside, Tilda Swinton was on usual good form as The Ancient One, delivering her usual class and elegance. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Benedict Wong were really good in their supporting roles, and even Rachel McAdams managed to leave her mark on the film, albeit with some flawed character limitations.

Scott Derrickson has continued to get better as a director. From his humble beginnings with Hellraiser: Inferno, he progressed to the brilliant Sinister and the enjoyable Deliver Us from Evil.  It is with Doctor Strange however that Derrickson really has refined his craft. He manages to deliver a visual experience of the purest form, mixed with fleshed out characters and plenty of dramatic action.

While the cast and visuals take centre stage, a special mention has to go out to the soundtrack. The score for Doctor Strange is unbelievably fitting to the character and tone of the film. Watching the end credits was made so much easier when accompanied by such a fantastic score.

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Now we all know Marvel struggle with their villains, but with Mads Mikkelsen how could they go wrong? Well, despite a really enjoyable performance from Mikkelsen, the issue of the Marvel villain strikes again. We know they can do great villains, well on TV at least, so it is always disappointing that when it comes to movies they seem to drop the ball. Whether it is a time issue or too much focus on the hero, either way the villain does disappoint yet again.
However, if you stayed until after the second lot of credits, we may have an indication that Marvel are going to be doing some ‘long game’ character development. As this is a spoiler-free review it’s hard to go in to detail, but there is a seed of hope that a very complex and fresh new villain will make an appearance in the future.

Doctor Strange does use the classic ‘Marvel Movie Template’ a lot and for everything made enjoyable by this, there are also the usual negatives. We’ve mentioned the villain already, but you also get the issue of ‘the girlfriend’ and the fast track of the origin story in terms of acquiring the skills and abilities. The film has flaws for sure, but in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t harm the film too much.

Doctor Strange is an astonishing visual experience, matched only by the talent of its actors and engaging characters. While some of the drawbacks of the ‘Marvel Movie Template’ are present, Doctor Strange surpasses many of the films that have come before it, placing it alongside the likes of The Winter Soldier & Guardians of the Galaxy.

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