Doctor Strange Review

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Taken in its entirety, 2016 hasn’t been a strong year at the Cineplex. Box office numbers have been modest, to say the least, and most blockbusters have failed miserably. The reasons for falling short have been different, with some creative, some budget, and some a mixture of the two. Several have just been horrible movies.

However, through the malaise, Marvel has had a great year, with only X-Men Apocalypse standing as a major miss. Deadpool was original to many, and certainly in the way it was done, it was unlike anything the studio has tried. It was also true to the Wade Wilson character, a perfect fit for Ryan Reynolds, and a gigantic success. Captain America: Civil War was easily one of the better popcorn films of the last few years, and maybe it’s because neither was a summer release that they’ve been somewhat forgotten among the Hollywood mediocrity of the warmer months.

That brings us to Doctor Strange, which releases today nationwide. Before expanding and talking about some of the smaller things, let’s just put it this way. This is the best big budget, widespread release since Civil War, and it brings with it a visual spectacle none of us have ever seen before. Put simply, this isn’t a good movie.

This is an AWESOME movie, and that’s the right adjective, because while it won’t win Oscars for anything other than technical achievement, it’s pure entertainment. Doctor Strange is incredibly well-made, well-acted, and it’s superbly executed.

The story itself will feel familiar, as most superhero origin stories overlap in certain respects. In this case, Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a world-renowned neurosurgeon with an arrogance problem. An accident leaves his hands in a state of disrepair, and while he searches for the cure, leaving the one person important in his life behind, he ends up discovering something massive, and is pulled into a world of sorcery and global protection.

The easiest comparison for Strange as a character is Tony Stark, and Cumberbatch has every bit the star quotient that Robert Downey Jr. brought to Iron Man several years ago. As an introductory story for a comic book hero, Doctor Strange is among the best. There’s just so much happening within this movie, some of it you’ll never understand, but you’re told enough to grasp the overall concepts. There’s definitely a bit of a Matrix feel to the proceedings, and that impression goes beyond the revelations of what’s happening that the on-screen general populace can’t see.

From a visual standpoint, this is the first time since The Matrix in 1999 and Avatar in 2009 that I’ve walked out of a theater with a wowed expression on my face. Cameron’s film was by no means a great movie, but it was a spectacular show. The Wachowski Brothers’ original sci-fi thriller was a stunner, and remains one of my favorite mainstream motion picture experiences. Outside of those, we’ve seen Pixar step up to the plate, and many superhero films attempt to leave customers with their jaws on the floor, to varying results. Joss Whedon’s The Avengers had some wonderful moments, where 3D actually felt worth it, and that’s where we return to Doctor Strange, because it supplants almost anything imaginable as a clean orgasm for the eye.

It begs to be seen on the largest screen, IMAX if possible, and absolutely is worth the extra money for 3D. In fact, you’re cheating yourself out of one of the richer parts of the spectacle if you make the choice to see it as you would other movies. Some of the tricks and illusions Doctor Strange pulls in its 130 minute run-time must be seen to be believed. The trailers actually don’t do the film justice, because it’s impossible to do this film justice without a proper viewing.

Another problem with many of 2016’s big releases is the lack of a compelling or dominant villain. Honestly, it’s been pretty weak across the board, and finally, although it’s not the best baddie Marvel has ever used, we do get a believable heel and an army underneath with power, led by Mads Mikkelsen, who plays Kaecilius, a sorcerer trained by The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), seduced by the dark side by the trappings of a world without death and without time. In certain respects, Strange is Kaecilius’ opposite, though the role changes through the course of the movie. Both Mikkelsen and Swinton are excellent, and both have strong scenes with Cumberbatch that feature standout moments, which include some surprisingly funny lines.

In addition to those three, Chiwetel Ejiofor does great work as The Ancient One’s trusted student, Karl Mordo, and without revealing anything, you’ll want to hang around to the VERY end of the credits in order to see a pair of extra scenes (one involving Mordo), both of which will play into the future of the Marvel cinematic universe. Rachel McAdams plays Strange’s friend and colleague, Christina Palmer, and the relationship between the two is reminiscent of early Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, though not in every way. She’s very good, in fact, I enjoyed her better than I ever enjoyed Gwyneth Paltrow, who I liked in the Iron Man films.

The final cast member that absolutely has to be spoken about is Benedict Wong, who plays…well, he plays Wong. His character watches over the library, which contains volumes from student to teacher, then from master to legend. He also takes care of some of the ancient relics, and protects the texts from potential theft. And, he is impervious to humor. His back-and-forth scenes with Cumberbatch are some of the movie’s best lighthearted moments, but overall, Doctor Strange is a clever, witty, funny movie, despite the fact that it’s definitely quite dark at times.

There’s one other star of the film, but it’s an object, and I’ll just let you discover that one for yourself. Doctor Strange is the first potential box-office smash I’ve seen in a while, and it’s one I wholeheartedly recommend you check out as soon as you can. This is why we go to the movies, and when you’re leaving the theater, you’ll be smiling. The story works, even if it’s not groundbreaking, the cast is exceptional, the score is strong, but the visual presentation is SPELLBINDING, and that pun is damn sure intended.

It’s a character very few outside of hardcore comic fans will be familiar with, but Stephen Strange is poised to become a major player in the Marvel cinematic universe. You’re going to love Cumberbatch’s performance (which is true of almost anything he does), and you’re going to enjoy the hell out of this world. This is the one to take the family to, but be warned, there are some scary visuals, and even the 3D stuff will leave you a little motion sick if you’re not careful. Nothing is disturbing, but it might be a little frightening for the younger kids. I wouldn’t say it’s a deal breaker though, and your crew will be laughing and marveling (another intended pun) at what the movie has in store for you.

This is the most pure fun I’ve had at the movies all year, and I can’t wait to check it out again. While Hell or High Water and Don’t Think Twice are my two favorite films so far this year, Doctor Strange is the one I will pay to see multiple times RIGHT NOW, rather than wait for the Blu-Ray. There’s a very Guardians of the Galaxy thing happening within this movie, where the likely unfamiliarity proves to be an enormous benefit to the viewer.

By the way, that paying multiple times thing… yeah, that’s happening tonight. And maybe again in a few days.

I’m @JMartOutkick. I wish I was Sipowicz. (Bonus points if you know the reference).

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.

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