When I first saw Doctor Strange in a movie theater I was not all that impressed. The story didn’t strike me as fun and exciting as the previous Marvel releases and I was even a bit disappointed. I was also offended by a casting choice. Upon further viewing however I appreciate it much more than before. That being said if you wanted to break Marvel movies into a hierarchy of great, good and bad, Doctor Strange would definitely be in the middle category.
Here’s what the movie does good. First, in the comics Stephen Strange was a vain and pompous character because of his success as a top notch surgeon. Benedict Cumberbatch portrayed that very well at the start of the film, highlighted by him berating Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) after his accident, which ended his medical career. Second, they did a good job with Dormammu the evil force in the background of the film. In the comics he’s man sized with a flaming head. In a movie that wouldn’t be so imposing so they made him into a huge force, so large you could only see his head. Third, the effects were impressive. They obviously borrowed a page from Inception with the folding and bending landscapes and took that to another level when the wizards fight each other. Last, I have always enjoyed watching Chiwetel Ejiofor (Baron Mordo) on the screen and he did not disappoint in this role.
Here are the negatives. My biggest complaint was picking Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. In the comics he is an immortal Asian man. If Stephen Strange wanted to find a bald, white woman mystic he could have just stayed in New York City and gone to The Village. The producers tried to justify this by saying they made the character more diverse by making it a woman. My take is that they didn’t want to cast an Asian in such an important role. Totally racist. My second major complaint was that Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) was not a good nemesis for Strange. Any good comic book, action movie, etc. needs a good antagonist, one that is an evil genius for instance or just down and dirty. Without that there’s no reason for the audience to care about what the bad guy is doing. Here, Kaecilius steals part of a spell book to bring forth Dormammu. He kills a few people along the way, but that’s it. That’s a really weak villain.
Like I said, upon first viewing I wasn’t a big fan of Doctor Strange initially, but I’ve liked it more and more over the years. It’s a good, but not great Marvel release.