Movie Review

Film Review: DOCTOR STRANGE (2016): An Entertaining & Visually Impressive Origin Movie

Benedict Cumberbatch Doctor Strange Poster

Doctor Strange Review

Doctor Strange (2016) Film Review, a movie directed Scott Derrickson, and starring Michael Stuhlbarg, Benedict Wong, Dante Briggins, Bern Collaco, Juani Feliz, Daniel Eghan, Annarie Boor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mads Mikkelsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Scott Adkins, Amy Landecker, and Tony Paul West.

Doctor Strange was released onto the comic book film echo-sphere in the wake of numerous entries in multiple comic book cinematic universes. Through that cacophony of fights, explosions, and heroism, Doctor Strange emerges as the strongest and funniest superhero debut since Spider-Man was brought back to life in Captain America: Civil War.

Doctor Strange is the closest to Inception that a superhero film has ever come. Click to Tweet

If you are going to see a film in 3D, this film, because of all of the mind-bending, off-kilter special effects, is the film that you want to see. If the producers of Doctor Strange had been on the ball or if they had better funding, they would have shot Doctor Strange using Avatar‘s digital 3-D Fusion Camera System instead of post-converting the film to 3D. Doctor Strange‘s audacious colors and visual style would have universally benefited from the Fusion Camera System treatment. Doctor Strange is the first film that I have seen since Avatar that deserved to be lavished with 3D optical enhancements.

Doctor Strange will remind the viewer of Captain America: The First Avenger in that Doctor Strange established the lead character (though Captain America: The First Avenger did it better) long before he was imbued with special abilities. Like a new recruit in the military, Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) was broken down by circumstances beyond his control and then built back up through diverse and unique circumstances. It was those circumstances that gave Dr. Strange a new purpose in life when his old purpose was ripped from him.

Dr. Strange, an arrogant doctor, was made relatable, initially, by the people around him. No one more so than Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). Dr. Palmer constantly tried to rip Strange out of his own head to see the stark realities that were unable to penetrate his ego and self-interest. Dr. Strange was very much like Anthony Stark in that respect: a self-made man that had bought into his own mystique.

Like the opening fight scene in Watchmen, the beginning theft, murder, and The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) fight scene in Doctor Strange set the tone for the film far better than any other outset could have achieved. If Doctor Strange writers: Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson, and C. Robert Cargill had begun the film with Dr. Strange performing a surgery, Doctor Strange would have been labeled as a superhero film that began “slowly.”

Seeing a visual spectacle, like the beginning of Doctor Strange, mixed with martial arts is a rarity outside of examples like Fearless or Iko Uwais action films. It was the visual elements and the surroundings of the fight scenes in Doctor Strange that made them so unique and perceptibly compelling.

Magic was on-screen, both figuratively and literally, during Doctor Strange. Bringing Doctor Strange to the big screen was a dubious choice, almost as questionable as an Aquaman film, but Doctor Strange‘s writers pulled it off successfully.

Doctor Strange is as close to Iron Man in balancing: drama, humor, and story-telling that Marvel Studios has come in recent years. Overall, however, Captain America: The First Avenger came the closest. That film spent far more time establishing its lead character than Doctor Strange did. By doing that, the viewer knew Steve Rogers before he was physically transformed. Dr. Strange was still a stranger to the viewer (more actions than substance) by the time he fully became a sorcerer. This was Doctor Strange chief weakness – poor characterization.

One of Doctor Strange‘s chief strengths, besides the visuals, was the way in which its narrative was put together. The scene leading to and the death of a key character in Doctor Strange were two of the best moments in the film. Doctor Strange scurried up to a potential R-rating when the dying character crashed through glass onto the pavement of New York City before pulling back to a poignant scene about the beauty of life and stretching out that one, last moment before entering oblivion. The last shot in that scene made a grim, ER impression. From that last shot, it was easy to see where Doctor Strange could have gone if it wanted to.

The Dormammu of the Dark Dimension time loop at the end of the Doctor Strange, using comedy to render a serious enemy impotent, was far more realistic (and plausible) in this film than in Guardians of the Galaxy i.e. Star-Lord dancing in front of Ronan.

Like most Marvel films, Doctor Strange did not take itself seriously at all times. Levity mingled with the serious effortlessly. Dr. Strange trying in vane to make Wong (Benedict Wong) smile through celebrity, single name references, the Cape of Levitation having a mind of its own, the moment during the Dr. Strange / Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) fight scene where Kaecilius said to Dr. Strange: “You don’t know how use that, do you?” were a few examples of this. After watching the dismal disappointment of two DC superheroes fighting each other, Doctor Strange was a bright, lite, and surreal breath of fresh air.

Rating: 8/10

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About the author

Rollo Tomasi

A Political Science and MBA grad who started FilmBook during an eCommerce B-School course in 2008. Cinema and TV addict. Former writer at Empire Movies, Blogcritics, and Alternative Film Guide. In addition to writing for FilmBook, he also edits the copy published on the website, manages its writing staff, manages the back-end operations, site finances, its social network accounts, and works with publicists, actors, and companies on press coverage and promotions. He has also created ProMovieBlogger.com and Trending Awards.com.

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    Great review. I did however watch it as a Comic/Marvel enthousiast and must say that in my opinion Dr. Strange (Large part due to Cumberbatch stepping away, yet holding onto it too, his Holmes characterization) surpassed the previous Marvel movies, perhaps even Civil War, though the adding of many ‘smaller’ characters to broaden the spectrum for the average viewer (perhaps even overloading them with identification options which are so common in the comics), though I can imagine the little quirks in Dr. Strange aren’t everyone’s cup of tea (with a little Honey).

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