Doctor Strange, 4.5 Stars out of Five.
Doctor Strange, I’ve come to review you. After 13 other movies, the most recent of which had broken up The Avengers, and 142 hour-long TV episodes, some recent of which had hinted at the more mystical elements (such as the Hand in Daredevil season 2, the dark matter from Agent Carter season 2, or Ghost Rider from the then-current episodes of Agents of SHIELD), we finally see the mystic side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We’re introduced to it when we see Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) and his disciples steal a few pages from a forbidden book to perform a ritual that kicks the plot into gear. After a visually stunning fight with the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton, the Celtic woman, not the Asian guy) in the mirror dimension, they escape. Cut to Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a brilliant but arrogant neurosurgeon, who performs brain surgery while doing music trivia (fun fact, the first song we hear with him is the same one on the tape in Karen Page’s car from Daredevil season 2), which I’m not even sure is legal. Come to think of it, there are so many small issues with Doctor Strange, they pile up. After handing his patient off to another guy, he’s pulled out by Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) for a second opinion, and saves a man from brain death and being harvested like a corn field in fall. This sequence and his interactions with Christine and other personnel develop him as the snarky, arrogant jerk we know for the last few minutes before his car crash (also fun fact, at the end of the credits, they have a “don’t text-and-drive” PSA written in) that destroys his hands. After Western medicine fails him, it’s off to the East for holistic medicine, and after being saved by Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), he meets the Ancient One, and what follows is his ascension to earning the name Strange. However, the timing is never clear. My best guess is it could be a year, or several, ending in the release time’s present. A quick “time doesn’t pass in this place” line would have helped, but the placement of a modern tablet in Doctor Strange’s apartment makes it seem like that’s the case, but one does not simply learn so much in so little time, and Christine mentions an extended “I haven’t seen you” period. It’s really strange, and feels like Marvel let the ball drop in terms of continuity keeping. That aside, the characters were great, whether it was Doctor Strange and his brashness or Mordo and Wong’s more stoic natures in contrast to that, which provided great humor. The visuals are also brilliant, and do not need to be completely believable given the less-than-believable scenarios presented to us, but it all contributes. Michael Giacchino’s score also contributes to the weirdness with a sudden reversal tune used for Doctor Strange’s intro to the multiverse crash course, and Eastern instruments to reflect the setting and tone. The humor also contributes to not boring the audience, and mostly clean language makes it appropriate for all to engage in it. So unclear timing aside, it’ll just get stranger when he unites with the Avengers in Infinity War and its sequel.