Review: “Doctor Strange” echoes fun spirit of classic superhero films

Graphic by Lindsey McGinnis '18

Graphic by Lindsey McGinnis '18

BY SONYA ROBINSON '20

If asked what my favorite comic book movie is, I would undoubtedly say 1989’s “Batman.” Featuring Michael Keaton in his first turn as the charming billionaire Bruce Wayne as well as Jack Nicholson’s iconic Joker, the movie is pure fun, a refreshing film compared to this age where superhero movies are often dark and gritty. I felt similarly refreshed after leaving the most recent Marvel vehicle “Doctor Strange.” 

The film opens in an operating room, where the titular Dr. Stephen Strange, played gamely by Benedict Cumberbatch, noticeably lacking a British accent, is successfully removing a bullet from a patient’s brain. After his prowess as a surgeon is proven and we are shown the opulence and wealth his profession affords him, he gets into a car accident which ends up limiting his use of his hands. Realizing that he would now be unable to perform basic motor functions, let alone delicate surgery, Strange becomes incredibly unlikable, lashing out at the rehab doctors and his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). He becomes desperate for treatment, and when medical surgery fails him, he travels to Kathmandu for spiritual treatment.

Of course, because this is a superhero movie, the treatment is not really just treatment, it’s an academy of magic, taking those who are properly motivated and training them to conjure portals and manipulate matter to their will. 

In the standout performance of the film, Tilda Swinton shines as The Ancient One, the master of the craft. She takes Strange down a few pegs easily, managing to make him rethink his arrogant personality without breaking his spirit. As Strange’s education continues, he realizes what it means to truly learn from someone, and Swinton provides a near-perfect model of a teacher.

As the film progresses, Strange, The Ancient One and fellow student Mordo — played with a charming subtlety by Chiwetel Ejiofor — face off against various villains, one played by Mads Mikkelsen and another voiced by Cumberbatch himself.  

Marvel is known for creating complicated and nuanced characters beyond their designated superpower or ability. Without sacrificing character development, “Doctor Strange” manages to stay true to the essence of the Marvel brand.

The story isn’t really related to other movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which might upset some diehard fans looking for Easter eggs and plot crossovers, but the visual effects and fight choreography alone are reason enough to see it. Ultimately, “Doctor Strange” is a ton of fun, and I know I’ll be saying “Dormammu, I’ve come to bargain,” for at least a few weeks. 

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