We follow the story of the arrogant, but somewhat charming neurosurgeon, Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who thinks of himself before he thinks of others. When speeding one rainy night, Doctor Strange finds himself in a car accident, sliding off the road and getting himself seriously injured. Despite many attempts at recovery, including getting the assistance of his occasional lover and co-worker Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), nothing seems to be able to fix his injuries, and any chance of returning to his career as a neurosurgeon seems to be lost. But there is hope, and it comes in the form of The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), who teaches Doctor Strange a form of mystical arts that he can use to protect the greater good, and his newly acquired skills may come in handy when an old pupil of hers, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) returns, now having turned to evil.
As a comic book reader, I was already well aware of who Doctor Strange is as a character, and I was most certainly a fan, and like with all of their titular heroes (and ones who are oh so deserving of their own solo movie), Marvel do him justice, and Benedict Cumberbatch proves to be the perfect choice for the role. He's arrogant, self obsessed, and, as it's pointed out to him, lacking a spine, metaphorically speaking. But he's not unlikeable. With a photographic memory and great skill as a neurosurgeon, I was happy to see the guy work, and the early hospital scenes have a fun little rhythm to them that makes watching surgery upbeat and fun.
I am a lover of all things sci-fi and fantasy, and Doctor Strange is a perfect mash of both. Many movies try to portray magic, and a lot of them work, but with Doctor Strange, it doesn't feel like fun, generic fantasy magic. It feels like legitimate, believable magic. It's grounded, intense and it feels almost impactful. When someone casts a spell or releases energy, it has a sort of vibrance to it that's brought to life beyond the screen. Every spell had an impact on me as an audience member, and I got the sense that these characters were trying very hard to bring this spell to life. It wasn't just some weird finger wave and hey, here's the spell. You can see the train of thought, every spell looking thought out, and not just random colours flying everywhere.
The way he handles the action sequences is just extraordinary. Each one feels so different and unpredictable, full of life and intensity. They're layered and inventive, and while I won't spoil any specific details, each action set piece brings something new to the table, and not one of them let me down. It's some of the best action Marvel has ever done, simply winning that title through its sheer inventiveness, but it goes to so many further lengths as well. The inventiveness is one thing, but the thrills, excitement and vulnerability is another. Nobody felt safe, and not everybody is safe, and that isn't always the case when it comes to these sorts of movies, so that's another thing I really loved about Doctor Strange.
This does bring me to my major flaw with the movie, and it seems to be a flaw in a lot of Marvel movies, and that is the villain. When compared to the villains of a lot of the other Marvel movies, Kaecilius isn't too bad. He's fun to watch on screen and Mads Mikkelsen, like he always does, gives an excellent performance, but there's not a lot too him. He's your run of the mill old pupil turned to evil, wanting to do something that he believes is for the greater good, when it clearly isn't. Aesthetically, he's cool to look at, but in terms of development, there isn't an awful lot going on besides "ooh look at me, I'm really evil," and it's becoming increasingly apparent in most of Marvel's movies.