Doctor Strange (2016) – Review

In Doctor Strange (2016), the titular Stephen Strange is a neurosurgeon at the top of his field who, after losing the use of his hands in a car accident, travels the world to find a cure. After discovering a potential mystical solution, he is drawn into a weird and wonderful world of magic.

What sounds like a fairly typical fantasy story on the outside is supported by the efforts of decades of Doctor Strange comics in going beyond the normal and getting as weird as possible. While the film does tend to rely on story tropes Marvel Cinematic Universe fans are used to, it also provides plenty of the strange, with stunning psychedelic special effects sequences that make this one film you have to see in 3D.

Beyond the effects, the film looks great throughout. Costumes and settings are a joy to behold, and the characters spend little time in the boring old real world without Inception-esque reality-bending effects filling the screen.

At its core, Doctor Strange is a film about selfishness and redemption. Nothing new, but it’s pulled off fairly well. Benedict Cumberbatch is a perfect fit as Stephen Strange, even if his accent does waver a bit at the start of the film. There is enough character development to keep viewers invested but ultimately the message of selflessness doesn’t carry as much weight as may have been intended by the time the credits roll.

Look at this nonsense. Beautiful.
Look at this nonsense. Beautiful.

While the visual effects do make this film a joy to watch, it can’t quite cover up some of the flaws. Predictable plot and weak pacing are disappointing, and there’s very little satisfaction from Strange’s journey to master magician. Despite toting a hard-working attitude and sticking his nose into books, he appears to glide through the studies with ease and come out the other side in no time at all. Not only that, but immediately has little trouble going toe to toe with the film’s main villain, Mads Mikkelsen, who is built up as an imposing and dangerous figure but fares poorly against Strange throughout the story.

Thankfully, the film does not take itself too seriously and it’s easy to sit back and just enjoy this film. Aside from being a visual treat, Doctor Strange continues the trend of immensely funny Marvel films, delivering some great dialogue throughout as well as some slapstick comedy that had the audience in my cinema laughing out loud. I spent most of the film with a smile on my face for one reason or another, and that can be just as valuable as a deep, beautifully constructed plot.

All in all, Doctor Strange is far from a perfect film but I will be recommending that everyone sees it. From the beautiful special effects moments to the great comedy timing, this is a fun film from start to finish and I look forward to seeing more of Strange in future Marvel instalments.

Grade: B+

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