“That ritual will only bring you sorrow.”
Based on the comics from Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Doctor Strange injects a new wave of astral elements and mystic arts into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
Director Scott Derrickson keeps a solid pace and tone filled with effective drama and helpful humor that helps audiences identify with Dr. Stephen Strange’s introduction into this new, high stakes world. Benedict Cumberbatch (TV’s Sherlock), owns this lead role…filmmakers even changed their schedule for six months to accommodate his schedule and it paid off. Cumberbatch builds on his impressive fighting skills from Star Trek Into Darkness here and even takes on actor/martial artist Scott Adkins who plays Lucian in an inventive fighting sequence.
Cumberbatch gets an outstanding supporting cast including Mads Mikkelsen (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as the antagonist Kaecilius, Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, Inside Man) as Karl Mordo, Rachel McAdams (The Notebook, Sherlock Holmes) as surgeon Christine Palmer and Benedict Wong (Prometheus) as Wong, a master of the mystic arts.
Kaecilius has malicious focus originating from various motives while Strange’s main guide/instructor Mordo takes a profound life journey that challenges his core foundations. Christine elevates Strange’s character development and even has the potential for a future spin-off element (fans will know). Wong has such an appealing screen presence and provides a key emotional anchor.
Benjamin Bratt (Miss Congeniality) and Michael Stuhlbarg (Lincoln) also have key roles as Jonathan Pangborn and surgeon Nicodemus West respectively.
Filmmakers establish the film’s universe with set designs where everything looks ancient and established. Even one of the characters is called The Ancient One. Once this character, portrayed by Oscar® winner Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton), displays amazing powers early in the film, audiences basically get the overly familiar seeing is believing approach.
The cast makes any action not handled by special effects look realistic. For example, Cumberbatch makes his spell/program hand/arm motions look real with help from dancing expert Jayfunk.
This quick set-up efficiently introduces essential concepts in this universe like relics, sanctums and amulets as sorcerers, protectors, zealots and others all vie in powerful struggles that bend and break the boundaries of physics, time and space. The costumes and set design blends with special effects from the well-established Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) and other shops extremely well
The cast’s outstanding acting and the Oscar® nominated visual effects continuously impress. These talented actors handle the physical challenges and definitely bring a high screen presence, which enhances the film greatly as the shock and awe visuals rival other recent fantasy film experiences like Inception and Interstellar.
Director Scott Derrickson and his crew film in authentic settings including New York, which is where special features include a great, unplanned NY comic book store visit from Cumberbatch himself in full costume. Derrickson also co-writes the screenplay with Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill as they add subtle foreshadowing (e.g. watches in an early sequence), MCU connections and endless references for familiar fans.
Michael Giacchino’s musical score sounds too much like his Star Trek scores, especially during a key sequence where a character makes a grand re-entrance after an apparent demise.
Recommended (**1/2 out of four stars) and based on the original comics by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, who makes his standard cameo during an exciting action sequence. This origin story a bit too familiar, but still interesting.
The considerable bonus features also include “A Strange Transformation,” the cast feature “Strange Company,” “The Fabric of Reality,” hilarious short “Team Thor: Part 2,” excellent gag reel, deleted scenes and an exclusive look at “Marvel Studios Phase 3” (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War). The only audio commentary track is from director Scott Derrickson, which is the only disappointing extra.
“The Through the Keyhole: The Science of the MCU” feature is a digital release only bonus feature. Previous Dr. Strange works included a 1978 TV movie and a 2007 animated film.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler