Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios
By Abigail Miller/ Staff writer
One thing that superhero fans have learned in recent years is to never doubt or underestimate Marvel. After the success of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” it became clear that Stan Lee’s team could turn even the strangest, most unexpected superheroes into box-office stars. So when “Doctor Strange” was announced as part of Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, many fans became excited about the chance to get to know another hero.
Last weekend, those fans finally got a chance to witness the adaptation of the titular hero, and it did not disappoint.
Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Dr. Stephen Strange, a skilled, arrogant neurosurgeon who tragically loses his ability to do his beloved job after a disastrous car crash leaves his hands mangled and shaky. Despite his friend and former lover Christine Palmer’s (Rachel McAdams) best efforts, Strange sinks deeper and deeper into a depressing state of self-pity.
Then, after hearing about Jonathan Pangborn, a once-paralyzed man learning to walk again, Strange sets out to Kathmandu to find The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), who he is convinced has the ability to heal him. But instead of finding medical healing, Strange is sucked into a world that is … well, sort of strange.
The Ancient One’s right-hand man, sorcerer Mordo (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), takes him under his wing and begins teaching Strange how to access the astral plane and multiple dimensions. During his time at Kamar-Taj, Strange also begins to secretly learn how to bend time using the Eye of Agamotto, which is technically against the rules.
Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), the villain of the film, is a scorned ex-student of The Ancient One. After losing the people he cared about, Kaecilius decided that time should not restrict life and began to gain the strength and knowledge necessary to summon the evil Dormammu, a powerful being from the Dark Dimension. After multiple stunning fight scenes, Strange eventually comes face-to-face with Dormammu, where he uses his wit and sorcery talents to outsmart the villains, meanwhile losing the help of Mordo, who is disgusted by Strange’s use of nature-defying methods to defeat their enemies (the Eye of Agamotto, which is revealed to be an infinity stone).
In the mid-credits scene (because it’s Marvel, and they’re almost always important), Strange agrees to help Thor find Odin. In the post-credits scene (because, of course, they have two), Mondo confronts Pangborn and takes away the mystical energy that helps him walk, stating that the problem with Earth is that it has “too many sorcerers.” (Hinting at a potential supervillain Mondo, ala the original comics? We’ll have to wait and see.)
Not without faults, “Doctor Strange” is a quintessential Marvel origin story with all the right ingredients: slightly jerky, egotistical hero, brilliant supporting characters, plenty of humor and a little bit of weirdness. Thus, the film’s only real “problem” is a common shared problem within all Marvel films: one dimensional villains. Everyone acted brilliantly, the score was incredibly beautiful, and the effects were absolutely stunning, but there simply was not enough depth to Kaecilius to make him an interesting villain. Which is a shame, because Mikkelsen is an incredible actor who could have potentially brought Kaecilius to Loki-level popularity, had he been given the opportunity.
Benedict Cumberbatch, on the other hand, absolutely soared as Strange, Tilda Swinton was just as magical as ever, Rachel McAdams was the same lovable girl-next-door she’s built her acting career on and Chiwetel Ejiofor was his usual alluring self (complete with dashing good looks).
However, the true star of the film is, without a doubt, the incredible effects. With twisting, moving streets, New York City is one giant Rubik’s Cube of mesmerizing blocks and swirling, glowing balls of mystical energy, all eye-catching parts of this beautiful film.