Alright folks, we’ve been talking a lot of trailers lately, so I think it’s about time we talked about an actual movie. Luckily for us we had a new one open this weekend that I had a chance to check out. So let’s get right to it! We’re keeping things spoiler-free here, so read on without fear. I will also be writing a spoiler-heavy review elsewhere and I’ll leave a link for anyone who wants to read that as well once it’s live.
So this movie is a bit of a first for Marvel, in this is the first time we get real, honest-to-goodness magic. In previous films, like Thor, magic always had a technological aspect to it, but here we get true mysticism. And it’s a great change of pace from what we’re used to seeing, because we’ve never seen anything like this. But more on that later.
For all the differences, Marvel does continue a trend that is found throughout their films: excellent casting. Benedict Cumberbatch nails it as Dr. Stephen Strange. We all knew that he absolutely looked the part, but he’s got the personality (pre- and post-accident) down to a tee. He also has great interactions with the rest of the cast, in both serious and humorous moments. The rest of the cast did very well in their roles too: Rachel McAdams’ Christine stood toe-to-toe with Strange in a way that a lot of ‘love interest’ characters don’t, Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Mordo has an great arc throughout the film as more of the plot is uncovered, Benedict Wong’s Wong was both badass and hilarious, and I thought Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One was really well done (despite all the controversy around it) with a great, faceted performance. But this was clearly Strange’s movie, and it really does revolve around him. This leads me to one of my very few cons. I thought we should have gotten more from Mads Mikkelsen’s Kaecilius. He suffers from Marvel Villain syndrome, in that he has a really compelling backstory, but just doesn’t quite have enough time to really make him sympathetic the way Loki was. Although to be fair, you see and hear quite a lot from him (unlike Malekith, who I desperately wanted more of) and does a great job with what he has.
The biggest draw of this movie is most definitely the visuals. They are stunning. We saw this film in 2-D, but if I get the chance, I’m going back to see it in 3-D. To call it both trippy and mind-bending is almost a disservice to how incredible it looked. From simple spellcasting to traversing planes of existence, it’s fascinating to watch. All that Inception-esque stuff from the trailers is only part of a surreal landscape that will honestly make your jaw drop. And the set design is gorgeous as well, from the modernity of Strange’s apartment to the ornate and more organic Kamar-Taj where he trains in magic.
I don’t want to talk about the plot because I don’t accidently want to spoil anything. I will say though, I found the way that the plot progressed and was eventually resolved was unexpected for this kind of movie, but fit with Strange’s character beautifully. I liked that it went in a way that I didn’t expect, that it differentiated itself in that way. The film does move along at a rather brisk pace, plot-wise, not really slowing down to let you catch your breath. I hope now that they’ve gotten the origin out of the way, we can spend more time with these characters without such a hectic pace.
So, to sum up, this was a really fun, fascinatingly psychedelic movie. In a way, it’s been a blessing that Marvel Studios doesn’t have the rights to some of their characters. Not that I wouldn’t love to see the X-Men rocking the same universe as the Avengers, but it does force Marvel to get inventive. It forces them to take chances on characters and properties that might not have otherwise gotten a shot at the big screen. And if this is the result, I say keep digging and let’s see what other weird stuff they’ve got in the back catalog. All that being said, I definitely recommend this movie. If I get a chance to see it again, I know I’m going to.
8.5/10- not quite top-tier Marvel, but definitely above mid-tier and an overall fun and exciting ride.