Doctor Strange (2016)

“Doctor Strange” is the fourteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and features plenty of the conventions that have defined that series, but has a few nice touches that help set it apart and make it more of a memorable sequence, namely the third act which veers away from the usual Marvel formula.

The first two acts, however, are standard Marvel fare. Nothing unpleasant, but they do drag at times. The cast is largely enjoyable, Benedict Cumberbatch doing a splendid job despite having to adopt a painfully bland American accent, Rachel McAdams doing an admirable and effective job of elevating a fairly rote part, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Tilda Swinton delivering strong performances when their characters are set free from exposition mode. Unfortunately, Mads Mikkelsen gets virtually no time or lines to exercise his great acting skills, as he’s yet another underused Marvel villain (Zemo, from Captain America: Civil War, remains the one Marvel villain I was impressed with).

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The visuals are a lot of fun. The city-bending sequences recall some of the more inspired sequences in Christopher Nolan’s Inception, and the kaleidoscope-like multiverse sequences are a very enjoyable, trippy experience. Watching the end credits, it really struck me just how many people work on these impressive visual sequences. They may get little fame, but they’re an enormous part of the magic and appeal of these films.

The third act was a relief to me in how it veered from the formulaic third acts of most Marvel films, where they tend to fall apart on me as any interesting ideas or character interactions the first two thirds of a film set up devolve into basically extended fisticuffs. Not so here, with a third act much more reminiscent of a Doctor Who episode than anything else. A very welcome surprise.

Doctor Strange ultimately is another fairly standard Marvel movie, but like Captain America: Civil War before it, it refines the formula with some enjoyable new touches, and adds a touch – only a touch, but at least something – of nuance that the preceding films lacked. I give it three infinity stones, and an apple core.

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