By:  Paul Kirkwood

This review will contain mild spoilers.

Marvel consistently hits it out of the park with their films. This time, they’ve hit it out of our dimension.

Dr. Strange is the 14th addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, an ambitious-as-hell project started all the way back in 2008 with Iron Man. Since that time, Marvel has been consistently dropping entries into their universe, each time with critical and commercial success (to varying degrees). 2016 is the beginning of Phase 3 (Marvel divides their films into chapters called “Phases” which end with each Avengers movie), and it’s off to a roaring start with Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange, both of which managed to accrue 90% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. To succeed once by making a critical darling is impressive. To succeed twice in the same year is daunting.

Dr. Strange introduces us to the titular character: Dr. Stephen Strange, played with aplomb by Benedict Cumberbatch, this time assuming a rough-voiced American accent. Even at first glance, you’ll find several similarities to Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, from the facial hair to the haughty indifference in how they treat their peers, to finding redemption outside of their homeland, etc. The list goes on, and this is very intentional. Kevin Feige, head guru of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is on record as stating that Dr. Strange is set to become the next centerpiece of the MCU, just as Tony Stark is currently.

A key difference between their characters is that Tony Stark took charge of his own narrative; he went down the path of righteousness purposefully. He designs his own suits of armor from the genius he already had. He fought the insurgents that had kidnapped him and killed his friend in a suit of armor impervious to most any lethal ordinance they could throw at him. Tony Stark is a man that achieved greatness. Stephen Strange, however, is a man who has greatness thrust upon him. Though a genius like Stark, he is placed into situations for which he has no background knowledge. He comes to that place in an effort to heal his hands, which remains his primary goal. Through what is implied years of practice, he steadily becomes more and more adept at magic, but without knowing the true purpose of the mystic arts. When he finally attains the role of Sorcerer Supreme, it is not through pure merit, but rather through attrition, as he is one of the very few who remain alive after an assault from a godlike being from another dimension. It will be an interesting character arc to watch as Strange grows into his role.

The other actors in this film all do a terrific job with their material. Tilda Swinton makes an excellent Ancient One, Strange’s mentor in the movie. She plays a character who, despite her great knowledge and power, still suffers from self-doubt. Rachel McAdams does great as a love interest, though I hope to see more agency and development from her character in the future. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Strange’s fellow student and guide through the mystic world, Baron Mordo.
Finally, Benedict Wong plays…Wong, who in the comics was Strange’s manservant, but here is upgraded to full-on Master of the Mystic Arts.
The villains in this story are a little flat, but that is to be expected from a Marvel movie. If all goes according to plan, however, Marvel has character developments down the line that will give us villains with adequate character growth.

All in all, a fine film. This movie was one I was worried would be Marvel’s first misstep. That would have been tragic had it been a correct prediction since Dr. Strange is one of my favorites. I’m glad I was wrong.

Here’s to you, Kevin Feige. Make mine Marvel.

Final score: 9/10

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