[Nov. 2016 Arts] “Doctor Strange” bewitches late-2016 box office

By Christoph Russi ’18


In Scott Derrickson’s “Doctor Strange,” the Marvel cinematic universe churns out yet another joyride action/adventure superhero movie, but this time with an appealingly flawed main character whose journey entails more inward soul-searching than outward conflict. The film’s main character, Stephen Strange, played by audience-favorite Benedict Cumberbatch, (“The Imitation Game”) is an arrogant yet brilliant neurosurgeon who loses his identity when he mangles his hands in a car crash. After Western medicine fails to heal him, he travels to Nepal, joins up with a mystical band of universe-benders, befriends an ancient cloak, becomes a sorcerer and battles dark forces from alternate dimensions.

While the visual artistry of the film shines best in scenes of beautiful “Inception”-esque animation and exciting wizard battles scored by Academy Award winning composer Michael Giacchino, the quieter moments are brought to life by the personality and diversity of the film’s cast. Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong and Mads Mikkelsen each take turns providing seriousness, comic relief and interesting dialogue with the typical Marvel witticisms audiences have come to expect.

For a two-hour origin film, it is remarkably well paced. The first half is essentially a two-part training montage, in which Strange works through various techniques and practices to fix his damaged hands, followed by his training in the ancient mystic arts. Strange learns how to shift reality, open portals and even rewind time. Each power is given proper attention, allowing the audience to understand the various rules and dramatic stakes of the film’s universe. Once Strange and his enemy Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelson) finally meet halfway through the movie, it becomes a gallop towards the finale with one spectacular action sequence after another.

“Doctor Strange” is thrilling, stunning, and inventive. By taking some risks and choosing director Scott Derrickson, formerly known for horror movies such as “Sinister,” Marvel takes a leap away from becoming a studio relying on blockbuster-formula calibrations to make a quick buck. Needless to say, it’s worth seeing.