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Once again, a Marvel superhero has outclassed his enemies and rules the box office. For the 14th time in a row, a MCU movie peeked at number one, with Doctor Strange exceeding anticipations, despite one of the more far-out premises of the franchise, a new character, and a leading man, Benedict Cumberbatch, who’s mostly unconsidered as a leading actor in the blockbuster world.
However, the magic Marvel formula saw the film having good critics and positive reaction from viewers. But as usual with Marvel, it’s not a complete victory. Since the launch their own studio in 2008 with Iron Man , the company has specialized in films that are genuinely good, but never truly great, and Doctor Strange is a similar mixed bag, one with lots to like about it, but there are also quite a few downsides. Take a peek at our thoughts below and let us know yours in the comments. Spoilers alert, of course.
The one thing that Marvel has absolutely perfected with almost every characters of their films at this point is tone, and Doctor Strange is no exception. There’s a particular vibe that you’ve come to expect from the studio’s output by now: big stakes and some high drama, mixed with comedy and a certain level of humanity.
We’d doubted if Doctor Strange 720p Online might turn out to be an exception, both trailers and director Scott Derrickson had promised something darker and more serious than usual, but the Marvel brand’s very much in effect, with some slight tweaks. The sense of magic and wonder is filled up, even considered more so than in any of these other films, and the humor sometimes serves a different purpose, Strange is a smarty whom others don’t find as funny as he finds himself, and many of his jokes fall seemingly deliberately flat.
True, it’s the way he plays off the more mystical cast members that brings some of the best humor, Mordo and The Ancient One’s nervousness when he’s tied on Everest, Chiwetel Ejiofor’s facial reaction during the New York chase, the beautiful yet silly interactions with Mads Mikkelsen. It’s even oddly reminds of “Beetlejuice” in places, when the astral projection scenes take place. Yes, there’s a certain uniformity of tone to these movies, but it’s a tone that nails, and Doctor Strange plays with it just enough to make it feel fresh.
Marvel has flirted with more out-there imagery and psychedelia back in the time (the 70s prog-rock album cover imagery of Thor the stand-out metaphysical scene at the end of Ant Man) but the sequence in which the Ancient One punches Strange out of his body and sends him off of the multiple dimensions marks a trippy new high for visuals in the macrofranchise.
Filmed with the use of the same rig that Sandra Bullock stuck with in Gravity and seemingly with the help of a ton of mushrooms, it walks the line beautifully between incredibly weird, strangely terrifying and being a little bit off in a pleasing way. It’s the standout scene of the film, a great way to introduce character and even exposition through visuals, simultaneously being one of the oddest things we’ve seen in a mainstream movie in a long while.
The quality of the action sequences in the MCU has been arguably variable, from the well-constructed beats and gags of the final battle in The Avengers, and the crunchy clashes of the Russo Brothers’ Captain America movies, to the anonymous, repetitive smash-ups of robots in Iron Man 3 and Avengers Age Of Ultron. Although director Scott Derrickson was somewhat unproven as an action director, he really nails it here, with some of the refreshing and varied set-pieces of the Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, and in action genre in general. From the opening London fight that shows off the world-bending power of sorcerers for the first time, to the New York sanctum battle, the astral projection clash, the Escher-ish NYC chase and the finale, there’s a consistent level of invention and ingeniousness here, and Derrickson with his team always keep the geography surprisingly clear, given the kaleidoscopic nature of some of these scenes. We’d wondered if the Inception influence would appear too timid, but while Christopher Nolan 100% deserves a spot of the royalties, Derrickson builds on the earlier film rather than plainly copying, and the results are truly astonishing.
The time warp climax
People have patently gotten increasingly tired of the bigger-and-bigger, exploding airships climaxes that superhero films seem to base on, and it’s remarkable that after Avengers Age Of Ultron, which may have set the bar of this, the Marvel films have tended to go for more unusual, calmer finales, in a way that’s proved mostly satisfying. Doctor Strange might have the best of these, not only corrupting the ‘destruction addiction’ that was so customary, but then letting our hero use his wits to win the day. When Strange first encountered Dormamu, we were a bit worried as the villain (played, via motion-capture, by Cumberbatch himself) seems sort of generic, unpleasantly reminds of Galactus in Fantastic Four Rise Of The Silver Surfer or the Green Lantern villain. But as the sequence develops into a clever, brief Groundhog Day riff, and Strange lets himself to be killed again and again in an endless time loop that he’ll only get out of if Dormamu spears the Earth. It’s both genuinely unexpected and smart, feeling like something that the Steven Moffat-era “Doctor Who” would pull, and shows both a level of sacrifice for a character who’s changed a lot since we first met him, and some of the film’s wit.