The first fundamental reason Marvel’s juggernaut continues to be so successful in spite of the avalanche of superhero movies in the last decade is the casting. Starting from Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man (2008) to Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange, the casting has been perfect. Cumberbatch and Downey played Sherlock on TV and film respectively because there is none in the industry better than them for portraying a brilliant and arrogant individual. So, it is perfectly logical for Cumberbatch to play the role of Dr. Strange which has a similar personality as that of Sherlock and Tony Stark.
Coming to the movie, Marvel continues to make origin stories work by making the necessary tweaks in its approach so that there always remains a freshness to the film. Doctor Strange remains fresh in spite of the many memories it evokes. The magic reminds of Harry Potter, the personality of Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, the character arc of Iron Man’s, the cloak of Aladdin’s magic carpet and the visuals of Christopher Nolan’s Inception. And yet, the movie does not overplay any of those and has its heart at the right place.
While the story remains similar to other origin stories, the way in which the story is told keeps it different from the ones before. Cumberbatch holds the audience’s gaze every time he is on-screen and portrays the supreme confidence, deep pathos and the transformation with conviction. Director Scott Derrickson who co-wrote the script patiently builds the character and at the end of the movie, ensures Strange has a long way to go to become the Sorcerer Supreme.
The visuals deserve a special mention. While the memories of Inception are understandable, it is fair to say Doctor Strange comes on top. In fact, this is the first Marvel movie that is actually worthy of watching in 3D. The action sequences in varying dimensions are one of the best pieces of visual work ever.
If there is one department Marvel continues to struggle, it is their villains. Their casting has never been a problem with top actors taking up the role (in this case Mads Mikkelsen), it is the lack of depth to them that is hurting. In this movie, Mikkelsen plays the antagonist without leaving a mark of any sort on the audience. One of the biggest reasons, Civil War worked so well is the pitting of heroes whose characters are fully developed against one another which ensured the audience could connect to them.
All in all, Doctor Strange opens Marvel’s doors to magic with a visually stunning film. The first half keeps you hooked throughout while the second half is predictable in terms of story and yet manages to keep you engaged. Marvel has tried to shy away from the traditional climaxes with a different one here that may not be to everyone’s liking. The mid-credits scene thrills every Marvel fan while the post-credits scene sets up the next part.
Doctor Strange does make one think whether an upcoming origin story might be the first failure they might encounter due to the common plot. However, they keep offering something different and till they keep doing that, they are unstoppable.