Pouring Magic into Marvel

1216_movie-reviewComing as the fourteenth feature film in the Marvel Universe, Doctor Strange joins quite a prolific series. Directed by Scott Derrickson, who until now has mostly worked on horror flicks, the movie aims to keep the cash cow series going and doesn’t disappoint. Featuring plenty of the classic Marvel Comics characters, the story opens to a former neurosurgeon embarking on a journey seeking healing and hope in a mysterious, hidden land named Kamar-Taj. Built upon an alluring cast that features Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Stephen Strange), Tilda Swinton (the Ancient One), Mads Mikkelsen (Keacilius), Benedict Wong (Wong), this might just top your movie-of-the-year lists.

There are probably countless die-hard Marvel fans out there that can conduct extremely detailed and thorough analyses between the original comics and films, but for the casual viewer, such specificity seems pointless. For me, the movie has done a pretty good job combining engaging visual effects with a strong narrative. Wondrous, trippy and Inception-reminiscent scenes of space and dimensions dissembling, reconstructing and inversing under the spell of magic, renewed my fond memories of earlier Marvel movies.

Also, employing a hero who depends not on classic superpowers or technologies, but mystic arts and exists among vendors who flip noodles in old Hong Kong certainly gives the movie a unique, oriental mood and tone. The whole affair tempted me with a familiar connection and heart-warming feeling of a place that rests close to me.

I liked that they brought in renowned British actors and quirky humor to make the nearly two hours of entertainment something a bit different. Benedict Cumberbatch—who earned his Chinese fame while working on the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes—was a nice fit for the talented, egotistical genius that struggles through agonizing pain to eventually rescue the world. Transformation and redemption really never gets old. Tilda Swinton slides right into playing the tough, but stubborn Tibetan master, while adding some tenderness, sensitivity and zen to the whole production.

The witty absurdity really sets the film apart. I greatly enjoyed the unexpected attacks from the magic cape, pauses in fights when Doctor Strange attempts to get away from making jokes, but fails and the distinct contrast from Wong, who with a seriously villainous face, hands over a Wi-Fi password in the most ancient looking place.

As a strong introduction to the Marvel series, Doctor Strange satisfies and encourages an exploration into everything else in the library. If you’re soon heading to the theater, give it a shot. I had a good time.