Trippy visuals, thrilling action astound in ‘Doctor Strange’

Whitewashing: "Doctor Strange" received a large amount of criticism when it cast Tilda Swinton, a white actress, in the role of The Ancient One. The character is a Tibetan man in the comics and people accused the film of promoting whitewashing.

Andrew Shermoen

The Marvel Cinematic Universe keeps getting bigger and bigger. Its newest film visits the comic book origins of the mystic arts, yes magic. “Doctor Strange” feels like the oddest place for the Marvel films to go, but it works spectacularly. It begs the question if Marvel Studios is actually capable of producing a truly bad film. Certainly they have produced mediocre films, but never bad. “Doctor Strange” is neither, placing itself firmly in the category of the best of the best. Its mix of amazing hallucinogenic visual beauty and fun characters outweigh its familiar story and brusque protagonist.

Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a gifted neurosurgeon who is notably self-absorbed with his surgical dexterity. He pushes people away and invites the woman he loves to events centered on him being honored with awards. When he gets in a horrible car accident that damages his hands he is unable to ever perform surgical work again. Trying anything to reverse the damage done to his hands, Strange becomes desperate and takes someone advice to find a mystic temple known as Kamar-Taj. There he meets a sorcerer named Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who introduces him to The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). A woman with powers unimaginable who convinces Strange to learn magic under her tutelage. Soon he becomes wrapped in a war against a sect of former students of Kamar-Taj who wish to bring the world into utter chaos.

The general plot of “Doctor Strange” feels almost identical to other Marvel movies, if not superhero movies in general. The film relies on too many classic superhero tropes to call it a great feat, but its use of magic and its visual design of different dimensions makes for a thrilling ride unlike anything seen in the MCU yet. The visuals feel reminiscent of the world-bending moments in Nolan’s “Inception” but on a grander scale. The amount of moving parts makes for action scenes that feel like an M.C. Escher painting. It’s a unique and beautiful style that only opens more opportunities for future films.

If there is anything wrong with “Doctor Strange” it is almost certainly with the main protagonist himself. While Benedict Cumberbatch brings heft and sympathy behind the characters massive flaws, Strange is mainly just rude and inconsiderate. People attempt to help him but he pushes them away and only cares about his self-preservation. Strange, of course, redeems himself in later acts of the movie but his curt attitude in the earliest acts makes him hard to sympathize with. Not to mention, brilliant scientist with an attitude prone to sarcasm and narcissism is already a role filled perfectly by Tony Stark. It’ll be interesting to see how similar the two are when they inevitably meet in an “Avengers” film.

“Doctor Strange” is a worthy addition to the MCU. It is, as many Marvel films, too derivative of its predecessors. Still, it’s visually amazing action scenes, moments of dry humor, and uplifting heroism makes for a fun night at the theater.

Rating: 4/5