With over a dozen projects under their belt now, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is always looking to expand and go bigger and bolder with its new projects. Film 14 on the slate - also the second of this year's releases - is Doctor Strange, what is perhaps the studio's biggest risk yet.

Back in 2008, the MCU kicked off with Jon Favreau's Iron Man - a film that, back then, was considered quite risky. However, today, Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark is a household superhero name. 8 years on and the studio have mastered this skill for taking such unknown properties and launching them to heightened popularity and success, constantly continuing to take risks, with the likes of films such as Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man having released within the past few years - who ever thought those would turn out as great as they did - and films like of The Inhumans (yes, exactly... who?) planned for the future. Their latest film, Doctor Strange, is no exception, and with alternate dimensions and actual magic at play, perhaps their riskiest film yet. The story follows the egotistical yet talented neurosurgeon Stephen Strange, at the height of his career. However, when he is involved in a car accident and his hands get mangled, he sets out on a journey of healing, in the hopes to fix his hands so he can return to his former glory and success saving lives. Instead of finding a cure, he ends up in Nepal in the presence of The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and discovers a hidden world of magic and the mystic arts, with an other-worldly threat he must learn to defeat.
Marvel have made gods and other-worldly heroes and 1940's super soldiers all fit into one world with a cohesive style and formula. However, introducing magic and alternate dimensions with it all is perhaps the most difficult challenge of them all. Yet, even then, as always, Marvel have succeeded in doing so. Doctor Strange is by far the boldest, most different endeavour from the dozen and a bit released thus far, yet, at the same time, it fits into the MCU, alongside the likes of The Avengers and Guardians. And, best of all, it works too; this is a very solid film. This most certainly isn't the best of Marvel's films and can in no way compare to the studio's other 2016 release, Captain America: Civil War, from earlier in the year. This is perhaps because, as wholly different as Doctor Strange may be, it can't help but be caught up in all the superhero origin tropes. It's a case of "been there, done that", seeing as we've seen a LOT of origin stories over the years. The first act, most certainly, is very formulaic and conventional in its storytelling approach. It's predictable. Sure, there's definitely enjoyment to be had, because Marvel has nailed this formula and can make it work, but you can't help but feel a sense of deja-vu when watching it.

However, once the second act gets underway and the basic origin tropes are done with and we really start to get into this story and film and the magic, Doctor Strange is all sorts of wonders. For starters, the introduction of magic and alternate dimensions is so fresh and unique in this genre and Marvel handles it really well; it lends itself to some very entertaining scenes indeed. The action and visuals, especially, blended to work for this character, are utterly insane. Strange's powers allow for some visceral action sequences that, quite literally, have never been done before and it's all visually gorgeous and remarkably engrossing and fun to watch. Horror-alum Scott Derrickson truly shines as a director here, directing some truly breathtaking sequences. The actors all look like they're having a blast filming too. With an ensemble this strong - one that can certainly rival any Best Picture cast - it's no surprise that all the performances are great - from Tilda Swinton's excellent portrayal as The Ancient One, to Chiewetel Ejiofor as Mordo, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen and, of course, the man of the hour, Cumberbatch. I'm not usually a fan of Cumberbatch's but even I'll admit he did a great job in this role and as this character. The acting was flawless, from everyone.
In the end, Marvel's formula has worked yet again as the continue to show they've nailed making damn good blockbusters down to a tee. Sure, the film gets caught up in some superhero tropes every so often and feels a little conventional at times - especially the first act - and the humour really does not work and almost always feel forced, but it makes up for its shortcomings with some stunning action sequences, jaw-dropping technical work and a hero as charismatic and strong as this film's leading cast.

VERDICT:

With some visceral action, breathtaking visuals and a cast and director on-form, there's plenty of enjoyment to be had with Doctor Strange. However, Marvel's recipe for success is starting to wear thin as it does begin to feel pretty formulaic and by-the-numbers at times.


 

About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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