Review: Dr. Strange takes Marvel into magic

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Move over Tony Stark — there’s a new egotistic genius hero in town, and his name is Doctor Strange. And while there are many similarities between the two characters, the source of their powers — technology vs. magic — and how they manifest on the screen create two very different movies.

Doctor Strange is all about the visual. From the hallucinogenic fractal effects and the malleable settings that turn streets and skyscrapers into weapons, to the bold colours of the magic and sorcerers — each marked by a basic colour (blue, red, yellow, green) — the settings come alive. With changing perspective, gravity, and time, “trippy” doesn’t begin to describe it. I highly recommend seeing this one in 3-D — you won’t regret it.

Though the plot — which chronicles famed surgeon’s Stephen Strange’s downfall and subsequent foray into the magical arts — had enough tension to keep me watching, I still felt like it was missing a truly satisfying conclusion. This is not a movie meant to exist by itself — there are too many plotlines left unfinished, and more only hinted this movie is merely one piece of the mature Marvel Cinematic Universe, where a character does not become fully realized in their first movie, or even their own series. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make me feel like I’ve only watched part of a movie.

After references to a past affair between Doctor Strange and Rachel McAdams’ character Christine Palmer, I was worried there’d be a cliché and dull romantic subplot — you know the one, where the male hero has to not only win the day but rescue his girlfriend. Doctor Strange represents one of the most mature and respectful relationships we’ve seen in a Marvel movie in a while.

Luckily, the actors, led by Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, carried the plot with fantastic acting. Cumberbatch brings more than a physical resemblance to the role. His character starts out arrogant and unsympathetic, not someone that audiences can connect with. Through the loss of the use of his hands and everything else, followed by him building himself back up, the character becomes someone audiences can relate to and truly believe in. It’s partly Cumberbatch’s acting that takes Strange from closed off to connecting with the audience.

Both the writers and actors balance dramatic speeches with comedy very well. The deadpan Wong, played wonderfully by Benedict Wong, is the comedic opposite of Strange’s pop culture references and attempts at charm. Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One is somehow comforting, terrifying, and hilarious all at once, a great and, despite the controversy over whitewashing, accurate interpretation of the spirit of the Ancient One from the comics. The movie’s visual splendour extends to comedy scenes as well, with sentient objects fighting bad guys and partial teleportation spells.

Despite my gruffs with the plot, Doctor Strange is a stunning and often funny movie that launches an interesting set of characters and a whole new element into the Marvel movie universe.

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