“Dr. Strange” (2016) – Movie Review

Short version: expect to enjoy it if you’ve enjoyed Marvel’s other films. Stay for extra scenes both during and after the credits.

Cast and Crew Information

Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo
Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer
Benedict Wong as Wong
Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius
Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One
Michael Stuhlbarg as Nicodemus West
Benjamin Bratt as Jonathan Pangborn
Mark Anthony Brighton as Daniel Drumm
Stan Lee as Man On Bus

Written by Jon Spaights, Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill
Directed by Scott Derrickson

Premise

Dr. Stephen Strange is potentially the world’s best neurosurgeon, and he’ll be the first to say so. When a distracted driving accident damages his hands, he looks for a way to heal, and finds something entirely different instead.

High Point

“I’ve come to bargain!”

Low Point

It’s hard to pick one. The movie has its ups and downs, to be sure, but the worst parts do not stand out as being egregiously bad, just less good. Perhaps I’ll just go with the unoriginal plot structure, not because they were copying other stories, but because there are just certain commonalities in superhero origin stories. Had this exact film come out in, say, 1998, it would have blown the minds of every person in the theatres, but now it feels like a new combination of some very familiar ingredients.

The Review

As I said in the low point, the originality suffers because we’ve had so many super hero movies in the past couple of decades. It’s a new blend of ingredients, but coming up with anything that feels more new than this would mean straying too far from the origin story in the source material. It’s a hard line to walk with adapted material. I give it 4 out of 6.

The effects are incredible. The visuals are seamless, and haven’t shown up in superhero films before this. Caveat: I still haven’t seen Inception, and there are at least superficial similarities between how both films look, but I don’t know if it runs any deeper than that. Still, there’s nothing to complain about here. They even took the Ditko design of a major villain and made it work on screen! I give it 6 out of 6.

The story is extremely well structured, funny when it needs to be, and based on the evolution of the title character. It’s very well written, if somewhat predictable. I give it 5 out of 6.

The acting is great all around, with some perfect casting. Although there is a justifiable concern with making the Ancient One causacian, Swinton fits the role perfectly as written. Cumberbatch and Strange are the perfect marriage of actor and role. I give it 6 out of 6.

The production is spot on. The Marvel Studios machine has worked those bugs out. You will enjoy the story or you won’t, but I don’t see how to film this story more effectively. I give it 6 out of 6.

The emotional response was good, at least from my perspective. (The crowd I saw it with was almost unresponsive, and left as soon as the credits started. Only two of us remained for the final scene!) Dr. Strange takes his rightful place in the big screen pantheon. I give it 5 out of 6.

Overall, it’s a solid film that innovates with visuals more than plot structure, and serves an important role for the Marvel Cinematic Universe without getting bogged down by continuity. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, Dr. Strange receives 37 out of 42.

6 replies on ““Dr. Strange” (2016) – Movie Review”

  1. Matt says:

    I had some problems with it. While the CGI was flawless, the 3D conversion on the live action footage was a bit dodgy in places (including one scene where nobody’s feet appeared to actually be on the floor). The worst problem I had though was the music. There’s a lot of dodgy synthesised harpsichord in the soundtrack, doing highly unidiomatic things, and while I don’t necessarily subscribe to the idea that harpsichords should always play idiomatic harpsichord music, I do object to it when there doesn’t seem any reason for the harpsichord to be present. How does that choice of instrument relate to an arrogant modern American neurosurgeon? It’s not like we see him having any musical connections or anything. The harpsichord is also not a typical instrument of Nepal.

    And if they couldn’t even be bothered to use a real one… I’ve got a harpsichord synth that’s better than the one on the soundtrack. So, not very impressed with the music. A friend said she couldn’t stop thinking of the Star Trek soundtrack, so Giacchino did manage to get stuck in a stylistic rut I guess. But, lots of dodgy harpsichord!

    It’s a shame, because it distracted me from what was otherwise an enjoyable film, which even managed to include a lesson about distracted driving! Although nobody chewed him out for being an arrogant and terrible driver who was asking for trouble even before he started looking at phone screens while speeding.

  2. Jethro says:

    Low point for me was Benedict Cumberbatch’s American accent. Now it’s nowhere near as low as Kevin Costner’s “British” accent, but still.

    I am looking forward to watching it again when it comes out on *Insert Hidef Format Here*. I love the whole IMAX 3D thing, but 3D still has issues when things of incredibly dissimilar scale are put together, or something we don’t have a way to scale against. There was a bit more of that in this movie than in most, even other superhero movies.

    That said, other than that, the visuals were great.

    I also think it’s a bit cute that we had a Pink Floyd song, since the first time I ever heard about Doctor Strange was in a Pink Floyd song (he is also on one of their album covers).

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