Writing a review for Doctor Strange might be, well, the strangest thing I’ve ever done. It’s a fun film that’s exceptionally well-cast and stands apart from the majority of Marvel’s other offerings…and yet it’s a film that can’t be objectively recommended. While it’s a step-up from the likes of Ant-Man, Hulk and Civil War, Doctor Strange has some critical flaws that keep it from entering the Iron Man 1/Winter Soldier/Guardians tier of top Marvel films.
The major critique with Doctor Strange is that the film is just too short. At a run time under 2 hours, it’s amazing the film accomplishes as much as it does. It has to establish Stephen Strange’s character, the accident that leads him to becoming a powerful sorcerer as well as how magic works and differs from other superpowers. That’s a lot to do in a film that’s only 115 minutes.
And it’s that short run-time that really does Mads Mikkelsen (and Rachel McAdams, to a lesser extent) an injustice. In a film that’s incredibly well-cast, Mikkelsen’s talent is wasted by giving him a role that could have been played by anyone else. With a longer time, perhaps the actor behind Casino Royale’s Le Chiffre and Hannibal could have put an interesting twist on a villain in a cinematic universe sorely lacking in them. Instead, his character is never anything more than “revenge seeking ex-student foil to the protagonist.”
Rachel McAdams is also shafted but given that Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man) and Natalie Portman (Thor) have been written out of their respective series, it’s much less of a surprise. Guess Marvel’s going to stick with romantic pairings between the main cast like Gamora and Star Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy.
It’s a shame that these two flaws cripple the film from being something really unique. Every other aspect of the film is top-notch. There’s a ton of talent in the cast. The visuals are spectacular and even more so in 3D. Some could complain about how formulaic the Marvel movies have become but there’s enough of a performance and visual novelty to make this film worth seeing. It’s definitely the best Marvel film since Guardians came out over 2 years ago. However, factor in ticket prices and the flaws emanating from the short run-time and it seems like this film shouldn’t be recommended like it should be.
Aw hell, I’ll probably watch it again.