The latest film to grace the Marvel stage is out, and it promises to be an eye-popping adventure. Doctor Strange is the newest addition to a shifting roster of superheroes who take turns stealing the limelight in blockbuster after blockbuster. Once only a peripheral character, the movie takes Dr. Stephen Strange out of his 60’s cult status and gives him a world audience, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The story follows the arrogant, smug, wealthy, brilliant Dr. Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, from high to low and back again. He starts as a talented neurosurgeon with no doubt about his capabilities – until an accident severely damages the nerves in his hands, his best tools for his vocation. This sends him reeling off to Kathmandu in order to “enhance his mind,” according to The Hollywood Reporter, but he ends up meeting some mystics, including the mysterious Ancient One, played by Tilda Swinton. Here he is introduced to, and quickly masters, sorcery. In fact, he can shift time and space, and these are powers he will eventually use to fight evil.
Reviewers from both The Guardian and The Daily Beast rave over the movie’s visual effects, likening the folding and twisting of dimensions and cities to the mind-bending theatrics found in Christopher Nolan’s 2010 film, Inception. The Daily Beast calls these feats of dimension-hopping “trippy,” while The Guardian calls the movie as a whole an “eye-poppingly freaky extravaganza.”
The cast, led by Cumberbatch and backed up by Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor (playing Mordo, another student of the Ancient One), Benjamin Wong (playing Wong, a warrior-librarian), and Mads Mikkelsen (playing student-turned-villain Kaecilius), overwhelmingly bring gravitas to the movie, giving it weight and levity in turns exactly when it’s needed, according to The Guardian. As The Hollywood Reporter notes, most of the cast would look more at home in a stately, “theatrically venturesome” British drama “set in the recent past,” but their acting clout is perhaps what helps the movie rise above any silliness and helps the movie-goer suspend disbelief, which is important in such an out-there tale.
Tilda Swinton’s role was actually gender-swapped, as in the comics, the Ancient One is an Asian male. However, the filmmakers felt that the “Asian mystic” is a stereotype that is too often played out, so they changed it up. Some people might have a problem with a white female mystic residing in the Himalayas, but The Hollywood Reporter remarks that, in the movie, the establishment where she and her students reside is “thoroughly interracial.”
The Daily Beast additionally takes issue with the fact that the movie represents yet another white male inheriting the mantle of “Chosen One,” adding that, within the movie’s plot, Dr. Strange is “destined to excel within an exotic culture not his own.” In fact, the character is very much like another Marvel superhero, Tony Stark (alias Iron Man), a smug, arrogant, brilliantly intelligent rich guy who goes through a similar journey of humbling redemption.
Despite the criticisms, the bottom line for Doctor Strange is that the movie is a worthy addition to the Marvel Comics superhero super-movies, a strange ride with amazing visuals and a stellar cast.