Feature Article

Doctor Strange Review

Supreme sorcery.

In just one jaw-dropping scene, Doctor Strange breathes new life into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The sequence is an acid trip through a series of mind-twisting alternate dimensions, a fall through a fever dream where you're bombarded by surreal and unsettling imagery. By the end of it, Stephen Strange believes there's magic in the universe, and so will you.

Writer and director Scott Dickerson has crafted a dense and fascinating world of ancient magic couched in the modern day, but he's coy with the nitty gritty details of it. You'll want to know how magic can be conjured just by twiddling fingers and waving hands, what all the powerful relics in the background are, and the history of the Sanctums where all the action takes place, but the movie glosses over all of this. Nevertheless, these questions will take root in your mind and you'll be thinking about the world of Doctor Strange long after the credits have rolled.

Stephen Strange is a surgeon that loses the ability to hold a scalpel steady when his hands are mangled in a car crash. After exhausting all the options Western science has to offer, he seeks out a spiritual cure for his ailments. From here, the movie pulls you down the rabbit hole and into a world where sorcery trumps flying supercomputers and genetically enhanced soldiers, where down can become up at the wave of a hand and a window can lead into a vast desert one second and the heart of a thrashing sea the next. It's a place that is bewildering and unpredictable in a way that makes you feel anything is possible.

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The movie is propelled forward by exhilarating action sequences that are massive in scale and impressive in spectacle. Each set-piece is a bluster of orange sparks erupting from conjurings, well choreographed hand-to-hand combat, and disorienting leaps and bounds. The environment itself becomes a weapon for the sorcerers as buildings are twisted, bent, and folded in on themselves. Imagine if Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon played out in an MC Escher landscape inside a kaleidoscope. Floors become ceilings, ceilings become walls, and before you know it, the building is upside down, inside out, and the wrong way round. Frankly, it's as exhausting as it is thrilling. At one point the movie upends the traditional flow of a big battle sequence and the result is a triumph of CGI and editing trickery. It's one of the best set pieces I've seen in a long time.

While visual effects and spectacle are undoubtedly the strongest part of Doctor Strange, the movie is also filled with well-realised characters that have depth and pathos. Anchoring the cast is Benedict Cumberbatch, who inhabits the role of Stephen Strange as naturally as Robert Downey Jr. took to Tony Stark in Iron Man. From this point on, it'll be impossible to see anyone other than Cumberbatch as Strange.

After three seasons of Sherlock, Cumberbatch is in his element as an uppity genius driven by his ego, but he also brings some emotional variety to the role. In Kamar-Taj, home to mystics and sorcerers, his place within the world is deconstructed by The Ancient One, played by Tilda Swinton. The truths he has built his life on are revealed as limited and limiting. The Ancient One tears down his place within the world and sets him adrift in search of a new one. This gives Cumberbatch the opportunity to play the desperate doctor, the know-it-all realist, the reluctant hero, and eventually, the triumphant saviour. He rises to the challenge and puts on a stellar performance, wandering American accent aside.

As The Ancient One, Swinton is Strange's guide through the realm of magic and mysticism, and there's a playful student and teacher banter between them. She's a powerful presence but also has a somber quality to her. An eerie vacancy in her eyes hints that something troubling lurks behind her piety. Swinton's character is also frequently in the thick of action sequences, where she fends off multiple attackers by using magic and reshaping the landscape around her. She is a stone-cold badass.

Mads Mikkelsen's Kaecilius is Doctor Strange's main adversary throughout the movie. While a serviceable villain, he fits into the forgettable footsoldier category alongside Ronan the Accuser from Guardians of the Galaxy and Malekith from Thor. Mikkelsen brings intensity to the role, but it feels wasted on a character with a generic backstory, cliche motivation, and very little of interest to say.

Benedict Wong and Rachel McAdams feel like they have bit parts, but make the most of them. Wong, who serves as guardian of Kamar-Taj's library, is mainly a comic foil, his stern demeanour being used as a dart board for Strange's sharp quips. Their mismatched cultural reference points are the foundation of their chemistry, and it's effective at taking the edge off the intense, topsy-turvy action sequences.

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McAdams, meanwhile, plays Christine Palmer, a sort of love interest for Strange. She doesn't appear in many scenes and in the ones she does, she's either bearing the brunt of Strange's meltdowns or trying to comprehend the weird new world he exists in. Her character lacks complexity and is underused, but I felt there was some nuance to the relationship between them, even if it wasn't explored fully. There's history between Strange and Christine and, at one point, they've come to terms with the fact that they're bad for each other. And yet they're still drawn together. This never manifests in a typical Hollywood love sub-plot where guy and girl finally work through their issues and get it on. Instead, the film just presents this fractured, occasionally destructive relationship that they just can't let go of.

Doctor Strange doesn't show much narrative ambition. It sticks close to the origin formula that Marvel established in Iron Man, and given the similarities between Stark and Strange, this doesn't come as a surprise. But it's also an enchanting movie that is a reminder that superhero stories are at their best when they inspire wonder, depict larger than life characters, and realise fantastical worlds that leave our imaginations racing. At a time when DC's heroes are at their dourest and the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is consumed by infighting over ideological disputes, this otherworldly adventure stands apart as spellbinding.

The GoodThe Bad
Cumberbatch is an excellent Stephen StrangeSticks close to the Marvel formula
Unforgettable action set-piece and trippy visual imageryForgettable antagonist
Successfully brings magic to the MCUWong and Christine are underused
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Tamoor Hussain

Fear the Old Blood.

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dribblesbarbax

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The movie tried to be funny at times but failed at nearly every attempt.

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Xanitra

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So when is new game coming out GAMEspot?

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Smallisbig

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The only good thing about this movie were its visual effects.

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melante

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Good casting, poor characters. Great VFX, terrible story.

That's it.

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LouiXIII

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Edited By LouiXIII

I have to wait until next week but I can't wait

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csward

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@Metallicwolf29: Chics will still go to generic chic flics. Horror fans will still go to generic horror movies. You can make these generalizations about anything.

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Zombunny

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Just watched it myself it was engaging and enjoyable even with a weak plot

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Soarlozer

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Edited By Soarlozer

All marvel movies have shit villians. The netflix and even agent of shields villians are great but they cheat because that is very close to a comic format as you get a lot of time to see their psyche.

Only way they are going to make even a iconic villian any good is over multiple movies, like magneto has had (imagine if he only appeared in the first xmen and that was it) or Sauron in LotR.

This is also why I loved civil war so much.

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lionheartssj1

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@soarlozer: Don't forget Loki! He's had the benefit of multiple movies.

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deactivated-5ed5ff7933d88

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@soarlozer: Very true. D'Onofrio's Kingpin is, in my opinion, amazing. But that is only because they had roughly 13 1-hour episodes in season 1 to flesh out his character.

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TJDMHEM

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I'll have to check it out.

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esqueejy

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One thing you have to admit about the Marvel movies and shows (on Netflix) so far is that their casting decisions for the heroes have been superb.

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deactivated-5ed5ff7933d88

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@esqueejy: Absolutely agree. The Punisher...a miscast role since Dolph Lundgren...finally got the perfect actor. Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jones, all perfect.

BTW...have they announced who is playing Microchip in the new Punisher spinoff?

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bat725

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@cjtopspin: Ray Stevenson was the the perfect Punisher, ripped right out of the comics. Seriously, go look at the Bradstreet painted covers for Garth Ennis' run on the character. It's one of the best casting in comic book movie history. I didn't care for Bernthal's PTSD take on the character, at all,and it ruined season 2 of Daredevil, for me.

Luke Cage and Jessica Jones were also poorly cast. They're just looking for actors on the cheap, it seems,instead of casting actors that actually look like the characters.

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Deadlysyns87

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@cjtopspin: Colter was not good for Luke Cage. He was always so sour looking and even when he said Sweet Christmas it wasn't like he felt it. Luke cage wasn't good for Luke Cage it was too serious.

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deactivated-5ed5ff7933d88

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@Deadlysyns87: I didn't mind him for Luke Cage...then again, I was never really a big Cage fan to begin with so I didn't really have anything invested in it.

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CptJohnnyRico

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Cool video game.

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BrunoBRS

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"Sticks close to the Marvel formula"

"Forgettable antagonist"

much as i enjoy the movies, i feel this could be applied to at least 90% of them >.>

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Bigbudd0045

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@BrunoBRS: they just dont spend enough time on character development for their villains. There are normally too many characters to introduce. Obidiah worked in Ironman because he was introduced right away. Loki for the same reason, he was developed. maliketh was just a faceless bad guy. Red Skull looked like he might have merit, but we never got enough of what his actual vision was. Hyrda was amorphous. Whiplash...failed. Ironman 3, while im in the gorup that enjoyed it. was a mess. It would have worked better if Kingsley really was the mandarin and the act was what he showed stark. Ultron...the seed was there, but it just wasnt done properly. Marvel has some great villains....but they are wasting them. At least i dont count this guy (forgot his name), maliketh, whiplash, among them. We ll see if they ever bring Skull back, there is potential for more Nemo. We ll see.

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Stebsis

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@Bigbudd0045: This is a big part why I think Civil War is the best Marvel movie to date. Zemo is a great villain for the story they made, he's kept simple and very human, he's not some superhuman or anything, but most importantly is not the focus, he's not the thing they need to defeat like Loki or any of the other villains, but the conflict is between the established heroes that've gotten even like 4-5 movies worth of development so it's great to see just them interacting with each other. Zemo is there to keep the focus on the heroes, not the end goal.

I really hope Thanos is gonna feel the same but this time for a villain, they've already been building him up, the whole Infinity War storyline etc. The other villains outside of Loki have barely gotten any backstory, they've just been one shot bad guys that've been gotten rid of in the same movie so there's no real build up to their confrontation.

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bat725

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@Stebsis: You think CW is the best Marvel movie of all time?

Nope. Spidey isn't supposed to be Iron Man's sidekick.

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Tyrant156

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@bat725: He's not? You never heard of the Iron Spider?

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Bigbudd0045

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@Stebsis: I like civil war, but i still think Winter Soldier is a better movie. Its a tighter story. As for Zemo....he is fine. I dont think he s great, but not bad. A bit better developed than normal, but there was no point in calling him Zemo. It was a waste of the name. I think they would have been better off making him the real Zemo, they wouldnt even need to expose him as a hydra member just show it in the flashbacks. As a villain, sure he accomplished his goal, but its easy if you have a simple goal, all he wanted to do was destroy the avengers. What if hWinter solider didnt kill starks parents..? This might have been very different.

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beowulf1211

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lol....aaaaand the transformation is complete. Gamespot is now IGN.

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bfa1509

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@beowulf1211: Yes, the name "Gamespot" is now misleading. I was going to say they should change it to "Gspot" but the audience they are trying to attract would likely not be able to find it...

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Skat0rzZzz

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@bfa1509: bitches be triggered

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SprSynJn

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@beowulf1211: If you can't beat 'em...

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SchNerdy

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By "Marvel fomula" they seem to mean "not deviate from the source material to keep what was appealing about the characters to begin with"

Sorry I don't wanna re discover these hero's. I want what I know and love brought to life on screen.

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Skat0rzZzz

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Edited By Skat0rzZzz

@SchNerdy: You don't want to rediscover these hero's what?

P.S. - Brought to life on screen? Was it dead beforehand? Whatever Marvel is "bringing to life" never sticks to the source material. They make it look, well, cool, so the moneyz keep coming in.

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BrunoBRS

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Edited By BrunoBRS

@SchNerdy: i don't think they're talking about story and lore as much as they're talking about the movie's structure and progression. the marvel movies all kinda follow similar story beats and themes, and that has nothing to do with the actual story.

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Soarlozer

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@BrunoBRS: Its like standard story telling. Unless we are going to say stuff like Hancock and Kick-Ass all are used Marvel Cinematic formula.

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johnny_pay

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ive just come back from watching it and i really enjoyed it. it lived up to my expectations. i wouldnt bother hanging around for the mid credits scene though.

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Soarlozer

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@johnny_pay: ALWAYS hang around for mid credits scene even if you got not clue what the easter egg is or if it sucks.

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Soarlozer

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@Chernnunos: I dunno what they want exactly, what origin story movie (forget comics) is that different? I didn't hear this about deadpool and all it did have a fight scene from the middle of the movie to introduce us to deadpool, and then it went in chronological order and imo had the marvel formula also.

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Fooljeff

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@Chernnunos: Since we've already seen it 20 times.

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59Hertz

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@Fooljeff: Yeah that's why about 98% of them suck. It would be nice if they would quit with all the ridiculous jokes and bland humor throughout.

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Fooljeff

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@59Hertz: Of course they should keep the jokes.

He was talking about the same origin Arc we've seen multiple times.

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Dawg9000

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@Fooljeff: Wait, I didn't read the actual review, just wanted to see reception towards it, did the reviewer ACTUALLY complain about sticking to source material?

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CyborIcarus

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@Dawg9000: he complained about the formula that is used in most marvel movies,it's not bad but he wants them to be more creative,many people want them to be more creative too.

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CyborIcarus

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@Chernnunos: that's actually true. if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

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