Marvel needs more Strange

Biola alumnus Scott Derrickson succeeds with the one of the most fascinating characters in the MCU.

Kyle Kohner, Writer

Captain America: Civil War” suffered from its tendency to fixate on the Avengers while almost forgetting the film’s namesake. Although not a bad movie, “Civil War” instilled fear that future installments would lose their humanity. Thankfully, Biola alumnus Scott Derrickson takes one of the most unique characters in Marvel Comics and spins his concept into arguably their most focused origin film.

Stunning visuals

Doctor Strange” generates much of its value from stunning visuals. The constant bending of time and place through city landscapes harkens to Christopher Nolan’s mind-twisting “Inception.” “Doctor Strange” has image-embedding, complex characters and action sequences, along with a visual style that sets it apart from the previous Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

The action sequences maintain realistic choreography despite the characters’ larger-than-life powers. At times, the visual effects distracted from some of the action, disorienting and overwhelming to the point where it seemed as if M.C. Escher vomited over a blank canvas. Nevertheless, the special effects dazzled despite its casual overbearingness.

Admirable portrayal

Benedict Cumberbatch accentuates the best qualities of Doctor Stephen Strange, providing the perfect balance of arrogance as portrayed in the comics while adding a sense of humor and comedic relief characteristic of the MCU. Cumberbatch’s admirable portrayal of Strange’s desire to expand his mind presents itself as a double-edged sword in providing a hubris for the hero of this story.

Tilda Swinton tapped into her exceptional talent with her role as the Ancient One. Prior to the release of “Doctor Strange,” many criticized Derrickson for his casting choice for deviating from the ethnicity of the Ancient One in the comics. Swinton’s superb acting chops really command attention as she continues to awe with every character she portrays. Although not of Asian descent, Swinton played her role as accurately to the character in the comics than anyone possibly could.

Enough cannot be said about Mads Mikkelsen‘s villain in this film. Notorious for lacking fleshed-out villains, Marvel really stepped up their game with Kaecilius. Although Marvel made his servile role obvious, the writers headlined by Derrickson fashioned Kaecilius as intelligent and daunting enough to be taken seriously despite many of his inferiorities.

The prospect that almost weighed down the success of this movie included the characters’ habit of explaining every situation. The writers had nothing left for the audience to process. Fortunately, because the details explained were interesting enough, the over-explanation did not become as bad as Star Wars episodes I-III.

A success among contemporaries

The most vital and appealing aspect of this film’s success does not lie within the acting or visuals. Rather, it was the audience’s tendency to forget that this movie is a Marvel film that drives this movie’s success home. Not until the third act do audiences understand the connection to the Avengers.

Recognizing the Avengers as the earthly guardians, Doctor Strange establishes himself as a spiritual protector. “Doctor Strange” lends a helping hand in setting a strong tone for phase three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which focuses on less-recognized heroes while solving the Infinity Stone dilemma. “Doctor Strange” succeeded as a small origin film while standing away from its contemporaries, making the film Marvel’s best origin tale to date. Many of Marvel’s predecessors became weighed down by spontaneously gratis crossovers, but at least with “Doctor Strange” the domineering studio knows it can create a viable origin story.

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