Right up top: I don’t particularly care about the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Or the slightly less mega DC one. I’m not vehemently against them, I’m excited for “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” and I’ll watch “Jessica Jones” with you right now. I just think the assembly line of Marvel releases hit the same beats every time and leave you salivating for the sequel you didn’t know you wanted in the first place. With that said, there is quite a bit more to get out of MCU the more you get into it, so maybe I’m not the target audience for this kind of thing.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s get into it.
“Doctor Strange” is a unique, kaleidoscope-like entry in the Marvel canon. The formula is still here, and the risks are calculated, but at least it’s colorful and the two hours breeze along quickly.
The film’s biggest weakness, as are in most Marvel movies, is it’s exposition. The exposition, which somehow manages to be convoluted and predictable at the same time. The exposition where each character explains stuff to the protagonist so he can move forward to the next plot point. I’ll sum it up best I can. Renowned but arrogant neurosurgeon Stephen Strange swerves off a cliff, travels to Nepal to find healing for his hands, and trips into his magical powers and superhero responsibilities. There’s also a cape which acts more like a magic carpet.
All the blockbuster actors, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams and Mads Mikkelsen, are giving honest, unironic performances. Tilda Swinton reliably commands attention whenever she’s in frame. Mr. Cumberbatch does a fine job without too much winking to the camera. There are some solid first impressions here.
There are also some inspired, visually stunning set pieces. Mushrooms explode into color bubbles, hands coming out of hands coming out of hands, buildings running across the screen in all directions, like “Inception” on drugs. It’s some of the most dazzling VX that’s ever come out of a Marvel movie, a spectacle I can imagine is even more spectacular in IMAX 3D.
Overall, Strange strikes a decidedly light tone, with a laugh coming about once every 15 minutes on average. Stephen’s extensive music knowledge was a nice touch. The jokes about wifi passwords and Adele were a bit forced to me.
The world outside is depressing and heavy, “Doctor Strange” is a perfectly fine way to escape back into Marvel for a while, and then walk out of and forget about. It’s just a shame when the most interesting part of your movie is the green-screen.