For the full Movie Bears Podcast review of ‘Doctor Strange,’ check out the video below. Read on for our mini-review!
After a tragic accident leaves brilliant yet arrogant surgeon Stephen Strange unable to use his hands, he seeks training in the mystical arts under the tutelage of an ancient sorcerer. As his training intensifies, he soon discovers that his budding magical powers may be all that stands against the end of the world. So sets the stage for ‘Doctor Strange,’ the latest superhero film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Filled with fascinating characters in an intriguing world, and showcasing stunning visual effects, ‘Doctor Strange’ is a must-watch for any fan of escapist cinema.
One of the things that Marvel films does best is bring to life classic comic book characters. Part of this success stems from spot-on casting, and the portrayal of Doctor Strange by Benedict Cumberbatch is no exception. The arrogance of the character could have felt like a knock-off versions of Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark, but instead, Cumberbatch focuses on an intellectual air that avoids Downey’s bravado. As Strange masters the mystical arts and finds his footing as a protector and a hero, his journey feels sincere and satisfying.
Cumberbatch doesn’t carry the weight of this film alone, however. Joining him is a talented supporting cast, including Benedict Wong, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, and Tilda Swinton. The ever talented Swinton has the dubious honor of portraying the Ancient One, a character who appears as a Tibetan male in the comic books. The decision to swap this character to a Celtic female is somehow equally progressive and regressive; on the one hand, making the character female helps to diversify the cast and shake up the image we typically think of when it comes to mentor characters. However, casting a white actress in a role that would have otherwise gone to an Asian actor summons the specter of whitewashing, a practice all too often in the spotlight in modern Hollywood. Outside of these concerns, though, Swinton’s performance is dazzling, and certainly one of the highlights of the film.
The true star of the film, though, is the special effects team. ‘Doctor Strange’ employes a dizzying and psychedelic array of visuals that feel inspired by ‘Inception’ by way of ‘The Matrix.’ The magic of these effects is in the way they harken back to the origins of the character, who became popular amongst the LSD-dropping counterculture fringe of the late 1960s and early 1960s. Like the comics, the film’s visuals are disorienting at times, sometimes terrifying, sometimes abstract, always creative. These visuals not only serve to define the ‘rules’ of the universe, a necessary challenge when dealing with an ill-defined power source like magic, but also set up several kick-ass action sequences.
Let’s face it; in this time of political uncertainty, the real world can sometimes feel frustrating and frightening. ‘Doctor Strange’ can’t cure the ails of the real world, but as escapist fantasy it provides a refreshing opportunity to take a break and recenter oneself. For us, there’s something satisfying about temporarily visiting a world where the good guys always win, evil is always vanquished, and all you need to be a hero is a bit of wit, a dash of bravery, and a fabulous cape.
Written by Will Lindus, Movie Bears Podcast