People always accuse critics of not liking anything. Well, this is a perfect example of how they’re wrong. The story isn’t so great, and it’s a bit like some of the other superhero films you’ve seen before. The exposition on astral planes and other silly things gets a bit odd, but you dig your hand into that bag of popcorn and have a fun time watching it.
It’s a shame that they didn’t spend more time with character development, especially when you have, arguably, the best cast ever assembled for a Marvel movie.
There’s Michael Stuhlbarg, who really isn’t given enough to do as a rival surgeon.
The big name, of course, is Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange. He’s the neurosurgeon with a healthy ego. He’s had (and is possibly having) an affair with ER physician Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). It seems like the perfect situation to me. She’s adorable, and while he’s taking bullets out of people’s brains, he has another physician playing Earth, Wind, and Fire and Chuck Mangione, while he spouts off trivia about the bands. A few minutes later, he hops into a futuristic looking Lamborghini, while blasting Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive.” He has the life. Well…until he drives off a cliff and loses his ability to operate.
Benjamin Bratt plays a character that was paralyzed, but ends up going to Nepal, and now plays hoops on the tough outdoor courts in New York [side note: why in movies when people are playing basketball, do they constantly talk smack to each other?]. After Strange talks to the strange hoopster who couldn’t walk, it’s enough to convince him to seek out the “Ancient One” (an Asian character in the comic books, played here by the always brilliant Tilda Swinton).
As you expect, the Ancient One teaches him about the mystic arts and how to heal your body by redirecting your spirit. She knocks the soul out of him, gets him to stop being so arrogant, and he’s soon on board. Strange is a quick study, and he’s devouring the books librarian Wong doles out. They have a fun chemistry, with Strange always cracking wise with one-liners. One of the many pleasant surprises in the movie was the amount of humor that worked.
Chiwetel Ejiofor, who is always welcome on screen, plays Mordo; one of the teachers. There’s a former student, Kaecilius, played by Mads Mikkelsen, one of the most underrated actors here in America. He wants to live forever, and has gone to the dark side to do that.
There are times Strange reminds you a bit of Iron Man. He’s rich, egotistical, and quickly decides to risk his life for a greater cause. Yet unlike Iron Man, we don’t get much of the backstory on Strange, or not as much of a character arc as we’d like.
It was a smart move that the filmmakers decided to update the story to modern times, instead of keeping it in the ‘60s. That gives us a few good jokes involving Beyonce, and one of the funniest lines I’ve ever seen in a superhero film. Mordo hands Strange a piece of paper with a word on it. When Strange sarcastically asks if that’s his mantra, Mordo snaps, “No. It’s the password for wifi. We don’t live like savages here, ya know!”
The CGI in this is great, and it’s one of those movies that really does work better in 3D, if you don’t mind spending the few extra bucks.
The visuals would be more impressive if we didn’t see similar ones in the Matrix, Dark City, and the most obvious it cribbed from — Inception.
If you’re not a fan of the comic book movies, there’s still enough here that you’ll enjoy. If these movies are your thing — it’s safe to say you’ll love it.
3 stars out of 5.