Release Date: November 4, 2016
Director: Scott Derrickson
Writer: Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill, Steve Ditko
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott Adkins, Zara Phythian, Alaa Safi, Katrina Durden, Topo Wresniwiro, Umit Ulgen, Linda Louise Duan, Mark Anthony Brighton, Meera Syal, Amy Landecker, Adam Pelta-Pauls, Sarah Malin, Eben Young, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Elizabeth Healey
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 115 minutes
Production Company: Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Budget: $165,000,000 (estimated)
With Marvel now diving into the 14th film in their cinematic universe, it’s about time for things to get a little strange. Just like their previous successes, this chapter too has a stellar cast that’s nothing short of amazing. There’s been talk of superhero/comic book fatigue from pundits and critics all around, but this time there’s something different that will shock fans. With his directorial vision, Scott Derrickson (Sinister)claiming this is the best visuals displayed on a large screen is a statement he can stand by. Though with all the good there is still some bad. For such an abnormal property you would think tender, love, and care would be on the forefront of the production, but instead at times it feels rushed like you’re in line for fast food.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of comic book properties. They’re my favorite type of entertainment. Also with owning a copy of the 2007 animated Doctor Strange movie, I went in with a sense of expectations, but was still able to detach myself from a biased fanboy mindset. Most have heard of Ironman (Tony Stark) by now, knowing that once upon a time he was an arrogant prick who only thought of himself. In the comics, Stephen Strange takes that notion to a completely different level, being the textbook example of everything you despise in a person. Rude, blunt, not caring, anger, and malice seemed like the only emotions that ran through his veins. Worried that there would be too much similarities to Tony Stark, it was refreshing to see that their personalities didn’t cross lines; with there being a distinct difference between the two. So for such an important role the casting had to be top notch for Doctor Stephen Strange, and Marvel found the person for the role in Benedict Cumberbatch. He owns this role as if he was born to play it, and makes you want more of it as soon as you see him.
He isn’t the only cast member that did their role justice. Not too far behind in the strong character category was Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor). With the original character being unlike the source material (White) it was interesting to see if it would make a difference on screen. It didn’t, and the exchanges between Strange and Mordo in moments of heat were extremely compelling. At a certain moment in the second act the film gave a reason why they casted such prominent actors. Mordo’s arch was one of the better portions of the film too, which seems to promise a grander tale in the future. His motivation was deep and moving, which makes it hard to disagree with him. On the other hand, the casting of The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) was just fine. There was a slight uproar during news of the initial casting of an Asian character being changed to White. In every sense, it may have been better to keep it consistent to promote multiple cultures, but Marvel decided to play it safe; which is somewhat of a bummer. Kaecilius (Mads Mikklesen) was a worthy foe, but could’ve used more back story. Also, it’s blatantly obvious a lot of Wong’s (Benedict Wong) character pieces were left on the cutting room floor, which is a shame.
Though the biggest disappointment would be Marvel not having faith in their own property. The studio could’ve taken 135 minutes to tell a lush, beautiful story, but chickened out with a short run-time that’s under two hours. This story is about a man that’s more powerful than the Avengers combined potentially. It deals with multiple universes, demons, and dark forces; but rushes to get there. It’s not always just about the destination, but the journey being a daunting struggle. Unfortunately, the film skipped over this development. From the source material, after Stephen destroys his hands in a car accident, you see him cry, suffer, and yell in agony. You see him traveling the world in desperate need of assistance, squabbling away his entire fortune. You see him go from what some consider the highest point of stature to the lowest of low. You actually start to feel sorry for the guy even though he had this coming. This was the same sin Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) committed in its release. It was a great movie, but instead of developing the world and characters first, it rushed to the glitter and glam out of the fear that the audience might tire out. Although, once Strange finds The Ancient One it brings in a whole new world of fun.
If you have a chance to see this film in IMAX 3D, please do because it’s worth it. Wherever Doctor Strange falls short the visuals make up the difference. It’s a bizarre optical display of bright lights and vivid colors put together in a maze of comprehension that’s astounding. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before at points. At other points it feels like the studio ran out of time to render the images, but it’s still a joy to see. Though while there is so much good, there’s still countless elements that bring the film back down. There’s a presence of martial arts in this film that feels like it was choreographed by a white belt. If you don’t know, that’s not good. So much time was spent on the visuals, that enough wasn’t spent on basic mechanics of a film production. When punches and kicks were thrown, it lacked the impact necessary to make you rise in your seats. Then when it did, the comedy was misplaced diluting the seriousness of the situation. There were more comedic moments than I thought, and let’s just say all of them didn’t work. Overall, it did have a number of great laughs.
The confidence that the average movie-goer would be overjoyed when seeing this film for the first time wasn’t there. It tried to walk the line of being safe and should’ve just dove right in. It doesn’t matter what the extra elements of a production are, as long as the story is solid, the characters are strong, and there is a strong script to tie it all together. If you have those elements, it doesn’t matter if those aspects are told in space, the west, the future, or is computer animated. It will produce a quality product. The product here is a good, enjoyable experience that is nothing like we’ve seen before. But with the amount of power behind Marvel, such a great cast, and a character with rich history, it still fell down to a near mediocre level.