[Like the "10 for 10" series but a little longer. It's my endeavor to clean the backlog slate (with some things watched well over a year ago now) this month with 20 reviews written in 20 minutes (each) over 20 days.]
2016, d. Scott Derrickson
Doctor Strange is good. It's got good performances, it's got good visual effects, it's got a good origin story... it's just...good. But it's also so very status quo for a Marvel film, it's so very safe, for the most part. As entertaining as it is, it's not terribly engaging. There's no real feeling of any stakes at play. What does Doctor Strange risk, really, at any point?
The film is basically a rehash of Iron Man, where a rich, cocky dude gets humbled and then fights something that could destroy ...something, realizing for the first time that they actually care about...something other than themselves.
It's like how Star Wars:Episode 7 recycled the plot of the original film, somewhat, to create a new path forward. But Doctor Strange doesn't feel like it's forging new ground, but more acting as a placeholder. It's the cinematic equivalent of a pylon reserving a parking space.
Oh, it's certainly watchable. Benedict Cumberbatch is a good actor, who seems to be having a good time in the role. It's got Tilda Swinton who, stepping beyond the whitewashing controvercy, always delivers (think of how much better the film would have been with Swinton as Doctor Strange instead though). Mads Mikkelsen is always awesome, and does what he can with his very generic bad guy here. Oh and Rachel McAdams is in the film for some reason (in a role that doesn't even measure up to the Jane Foster or Pepper Potts equivalent in the Thor or Iron Man series).
There is some good fun to be had throughout, with some good trippy Inception/M.C. Escher inspired warping of reality the good highlight of this good picture. There's a bit of a Shaw Bros kung fu vibe it could have leaned into more
had they thought about it. It just could have tried harder to be
weirder than it was.
The consensus among my nerd circle of comic book movie lovers mirrors my own. It seems much of the critical and online reaction says the same. It's good. I don't really know any big fans of the comic book Doctor Strange (I may have purchased one Doctor Strange book in 35+ years of comic reading so I'm certainly not one to measure) so I can't even gauge it as an adaptation against the comics. This is factory-churned goods, consistent, unremarkable, just above average enough to inspire a pleasant reaction.
It was good enough an experience in the theatres, and I'll probably watch it again, but it's quite low in my rankings of Marvel movies.