One of the more eccentric entries in the ever-growing Marvel franchise, “Doctor Strange” is a fitting step forward that reinvigorates the dormant comic property. Full of scenes that at once evoke memories of “Inception” and bring mind-bending images that challenge traditional filmmaking methods, Marvel’s latest delivers supernatural excitement.
Stephen Strange is a successful, yet deeply narcissistic neurosurgeon that believes every aspect of his world is controllable. After a brutal car accident robs him of his ability to use his hands effectively, his comfortable world of security and hubris comes crashing down. Searching the world for a cure to his condition, he eventually arrives in Nepal where he discovers a secret community of sorcerers that manipulate the fabric of reality and simultaneously safeguard the planet with magic.
Renowned British actor Benedict Cumberbatch takes on the role of the Sorcerer Supreme and his path mirrors the familiar character arc that transformed Tony Stark into a superhero in “Iron Man.” Cumberbatch brings the perfect amount of charisma and wit needed to fill the famed role and does an excellent job in adding subtle nuances to the physicality of the character. The supporting cast also includes other major actors such as Chiwetel Ejiofor — who plays Baron Mordo — and Rachel McAdams as the film’s required love interest — a fellow surgeon named Christine Palmer.
Strange ends up training with the leader of the magical cult, fittingly named The Ancient One, as he gradually comes to appreciate his newfound perspective on the malleability of reality and the infinite number of dimensions that flow concurrently. His newfound perspective also gives him the powerful ability to reuse his hands to conjure spells and create magic.
However, in the midst of his training, a former student of The Ancient One goes rogue and steals forbidden spells in order to unleash a dark, malevolent demon. As a result, the doctor is forced to rush his training and face the demon Dormammu, an entity with the capacity to destroy reality itself.
The visuals throughout the film are breathtaking, as colors of emerald green and purple collide alongside scenes that showcase different dimensions. The opening scene, alone provides enough thrills to viewers with buildings that twist, contort and layer upon each other as the sorcerers display their power. Computer generated images are frequently used as the focal point for these scenes. However, instead of distracting from the story at hand, it drives the imagination of viewers with beautiful scenery and inventive cinematography.
For the most part, the plotline follows the same hero’s journey arc that is used in so many other superhero movies. By the end of the film, Strange is a changed man that understands and respects his new place in the universe as a being with incredible power, which is the same storyline as nearly every other introductory Marvel movie. Interestingly enough, by mimicking the story that made Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) the focal point of the franchise’s early movies, Marvel may be trying to present Cumberbatch as the new face of the series. The creative decision mostly works, as he functions effectively as a leading man that is relatable to viewers.
While “Doctor Strange” shares an abundance of similarities with other superhero stories, it still manages to bring a unique, psychedelic bend to the trite formula. The action and visuals are more than enough to satisfy viewers, and the stellar introduction of the titular hero adds yet another major player for audiences to enjoy in the evolving Marvel Cinematic Universe.