Doctor Strange: Breathtaking Visuals, Lackluster Writing


Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

Alex Toth, Reporter

Marvel for a while now has needed a revival. Their number one issue is that they know what works, and they stick to it. There’s too much of a formula for them, and while it puts people in seats, it really doesn’t do much more than that.

“Doctor Strange” is just what Marvel needed: a new, refreshing installment with an interesting backstory, good characters, and a decent plot. I say decent, because while this surely has new ideas of its own, it can’t help sticking to the same old plot structure that Marvel loves oh so much.

“Doctor Strange” stars Benedict Cumberbatch (“Sherlock”) and follows Doctor Stephen Strange as he seeks medical rehabilitation from a spiritual healer. He is then propelled into a world of magic, evil, and alternate dimensions.

Doctor Strange, while debatably unlikeable, is an interesting character. He’s human, he has flaws, and his powers are more than punch punch, fly, shoot. He has a little bit of depth, and what he lacks in the likeability factor, he makes up for it with the fact that I never really got bored of him. Marvel needs these types of characters if they want to continue their whole “Marvel Universe” and pump out dozens of movies just to set up some sort of finale.

While the story of Doctor Strange wasn’t executed well (pacing, predictability), it sure proved itself to be an interesting one. I enjoyed learning about the mystic arts that the self-proclaimed Ancient One (Tilda Swinton, “Moonrise Kingdom”) teaches Strange; it’s a legitimately interesting part of the film that if drawn out a bit more, could have made my experience a lot better. The scenes of Strange learning the spells and techniques, usually a throwaway part of any film, managed to be the best portion of this one.

The special effects that complemented these scenes were excellent. You can tell special care was put into every single frame, and the trippy, twisted visuals that sufficed from this care really pay off. It’s entrancing watching Strange blast through these landscapes of distorted city scapes and hallways. The fight scenes towards the end of the film especially benefit from this, as they’re the most entertaining scenes in the film.

Everything is convulsing and twisting around, and it gives you an idea of what this universe is like. Typically Marvel is at most satisfactory in their CGI side of things, but Doctor Strange proves that CGI can be used effectively, and creatively to provide a unique and entertaining film.

Where most of my problems lie are in the writing. I found myself wincing at some of the banter between characters, especially with the character Wong (Benedict Wong, “The Martian”). Anything between him and Strange was unfunny and out of place. The film tries to be another “Guardians of the Galaxy” with its writing, but ultimately falls flat. While there’s a few clever lines here and there, it overall feels unnecessary.

Villains seem to be something Marvel refuses to put any effort into–they all have the same motivations, character traits, and personalities. While I wasn’t completely disappointed by Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen, “Casino Royale”), I felt like his character had a lot of potential that went to waste.

I’m a huge fan of Mads Mikkelsen. His performance in “The Hunt” proved to be the best of the 2013, but in “Doctor Strange”, his performance feels flat, phoned in, and cheesy. That could be to blame on the writing though. Not giving an actor enough to work with can really hurt their performance and it proved true here.

On the directing side of things, I can’t really say much, Marvel typically does a good job on the directing front, and there’s not much here that hasn’t already been done in any other marvel movies.

Overall, I was certainly entertained by “Doctor Strange,” but not impressed. While it had amazing visuals and an intriguing backstory, it was really bogged down by bland dialogue and a typical plot.