I’ve been looking forward to this one, and I was not disappointed, even though they did NOT use the odd variation of my Doctor Strange logo that appeared with a lot of the publicity images in the actual film, but went instead with the ever boring Trajan font with a gold metallic Photoshop effect. It’s the one on many of the newest movie images. Sigh.
When I first discovered Marvel comics in the early 1960s, I loved the original Doctor Strange stories by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee. I was already a fan of magic and fantasy, and this was the biggest use of it in comics at the time. Ditko’s visuals were mind-bending and wonderful in every way. Lee’s dialogue was corny, with some silly made-up magic words and names, but heartfelt all the same.
The movie, in my view, takes the best of the original ideas and builds on them in many ways, with respect, intelligence and even some humor. It puts the characters in a believable present without taking away what I liked about them in the comics. Yes, there are some obvious changes that some have found troubling—The Ancient One, Strange’s teacher being played by Tilda Swinton rather than an Asian actor being the main one I’ve heard about—but I thought she did an excellent job. Benedict Cumberbatch was superb in the title role. All the actors were great. The only role I found predictable and kind of one-note was that of the main villain Kaecilius, a former student of The Ancient One who has rebelled and stolen a spell to bring the Dreaded Dormammu and his dark world to Earth, or rather, Earth to it.
The effects and visual look of this movie are truly mind-boggling. Many had a sort of mad clockwork approach that I first remember seeing in some of the Harry Potter films, but taking that idea to artist M.C. Escher impossibilities and beyond. Even the little things like makeup that mimics very real scars was impressive.
Some of the Marvel films I’ve seen, like the first Avengers one, were too much all-out action and fighting. I thought this was a better balance of story and action, character moments and violence. Many times in the film I had feelings of “yes, that was done right.” Never did I feel bored. You can’t ask for more than that in a film of this type, I think.