Rating: 4 of 5
While I knew a bit about Dr. Strange going in, like the character’s name and his look and that he messed with reality, I didn’t really know his history or the mythology around him. So, it was quite refreshing to not know what was coming for this character as the story progressed.
And it progressed a bit slowly. A bit of too close detail on medical tools in the beginning. A bit of meandering as a broken man (as one would do) before truly stepping into his journey. Then, of course, a sequence of training because one does not immediately become… well anything really.
All that being said, I think the pacing of the film didn’t suffer for the lack of things happening. There was a hint of humor that sustained it; a lot of asking questions and hints of development that felt like small steps but steps enough to keep going.
It’s a quieter movie than some of the other Marvel films I think because of that pace. The attention to detail continues beyond the opening operating scenes. The film spends time in the progress and transition of things. You see Dr. Strange walk through a courtyard to get to the library and nothing happens on the walk – instead of starting the scene in the library. The pauses, the inner struggles, the moments almost as if it’s a tv show give it a very different tone than the other Marvel films. It worked for me, though I don’t know if it’d work for everyone.
And Dr. Strange’s introduction to the multiverse is a feast of visual effects but it kind of went on too long because it was the one noticeable sequence where absolutely nothing was happening with the character. Or any of the characters.
I loved Benedict Cumberbatch in the role. Could not imagine anyone else in it. And I thought that years ago when they were discussing the casting. There’s no one else who could play this arrogant, narcissistic character with genuine gravitas and not have him be completely unlikable. Cumberbatch pulls of arrogant in character after character but he harnesses it somehow and you love him all the more for it rather than less.
And Rachel McAdams gave such a beautiful performance, so nuanced and strong and genuine. Marvel has a bit of trouble with chemistry when it comes to their male leads and corresponding heroines, but McAdams and Cumberbatch are well suited with one another, if not especially fiery. And well suited is a lot better than several of the other pairings (and by several I pretty much mean all – except Peggy Carter and Steve Rogers).
While everyone was good, I boosted my performance mark because of how splendidly she did. And, a bit surprisingly, I didn’t bring it down at all because of Tilda Swinton. Normally I don’t like her at all but she didn’t annoy me in this role. Which is rather impressive in and ovf itself. I went in thinking that Cate Blanchett would have been a better choice, but I think now that she would have been a bit too refined. I’m sure I could think of other, better, options but I didn’t hate that they cast Swinton, which is really saying something.
And I gave surprisingly high director marks for an action movie (two points to Slytherin – you totally know Scott Derrickson is in Slytherin). He orchestrated the onscreen logistics impressively. A couple of the fights were a little too quick to track but nothing as bad as Age of Ultron. There were also subtle ties woven throughout the film that are uncommon on a big action film like this. And between the performances and the logistics he did kind of a stellar job. He also was one of the writers so he gets marks for that.
The visual effects were also impressive. Overall, I didn’t LOVE it the way I LOVED some of the other Marvel movies. But it’s easily in my top five of Marvel movies.