There are no surprises and this review contains no spoilers... well, maybe not, but you'll have to finish reading it to find out - I wouldn't want to spoil it for you if you make it through the review.
So, my big concern - before I walked into the theatre - was that Tilda Swinton played The Ancient One... Let me repeat that TILDA SWINTON played the Ancient One. I know black don't crack, so at a minimum they should have cast a brown person to play the Ancient One if they were going to veer away from the actual original background of the character that is supposed to be from the Himalayas.
Scott Derrickson (Sinister, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) - Director/Writer
C. Rober Cargill (Sinister) - Writer
Benedict Cumberbatch (TV's Sherlock, Star Trek: Into Darkness) - Doctor Stephen Strange
Chiwetel Ojiofor (Serenity, American Gangster) - Mordo
Rachel McAdams (Wedding Crashers, Spotlight) - Dr. Christine Palmer
Tilda Swinton (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Chronicles of Narnia) - The Ancient One
Mads Mikkelson (Casino Royale, The Three Musketeers) - Kaecillius
Benedict Wong (Sunshine, Promethius) - Wong
Benjamin Bratt (Snitch, Ride Along 2) - Jonathan Pangborn
IF YOU MUST KNOW
Here's the gist of the story of Doctor Strange. (Mind you, I never read the comics. I'm a nerd, but my nerd-dom has it's limits. I wasn't the kind of nerd that never got girls - it was just a lot less frequent than some of my friends, so I didn't have time to read every comic. I'm exactly nerdly enough to have read too many comics to be have been a player back in ye olden day.) Where was I...? Stephen Strange... Right... there's a movie to talk about... Steven Strange, M.D., Ph.D., is a brilliant surgeon who loses his ability to operate when he has a car accident that causes substantial damage to his money makers (the hands, people). Doctor Strange (not Mister Strange) seeks out any way of healing that might be available and finally turns to a mysterious possible source in the Himalayas at a mystical place called Kamar-Taj.
Dr. Strange finds himself in Nepal looking for the way back to his posh life as a hotshot, arrogant surgeon. Aside: Interesting how Cumberbatch seems to be able to play arrogant bastards so effortlessly... it does make you wonder a bit about who the guy is, or maybe it is just his face. What's the dude equivalent of RBF? Anyone know?
Anyway, Doctor Strange discovers that there is more to the world than what he has ever imagined and becomes an promising apprentice of The Ancient One in his search for healing. You know as well as I do that superhero movies need the stakes to be world shaking. There's rarely a superhero TV show or movie that focuses on a very specific locality and the inherent dangers faced in that particular area - unless you've been watching Netflix's most recent dopeness, Luke Cage.
Now, if you thought you were gonna get all the action of the Avengers, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, etc. from the guy that plays this cat...
Think again. Tilda (that's either short for Matilda or her parents really liked that little thing in Spanish that goes over the 'n' in words like "niña" but absolutely not in words like "empanada" which I learned one drunken night in D.C. whilst searching for grub at 3am in Adams Morgan) gets more action than Benedict Cumberbatch. ASIDE: Shouts to Julia's Empanadas on 18th Street, NW, D.C.
Moral of the story - 1) don't think for a second that your drunken 11th grade Spanish will get you anywhere with a Latina from NYC at 3am and, less important & more relevantly, 2) do not go in expecting to see an action-packed Marvel movie. Oh, let's be clear - there's a lot of activity; by that, I mean that there was a lot of just stuff happening on the screen - buildings spinning and folding, teleportation portals opening up, and hands waving back and forth like an ethnic argument gone awry. There was not the kind of action that one might rightfully expect in a superhero film. No epic battles. No cities dropping from the sky... wait... well, that kinda happened, but you get what I'm saying. There are a few fights there, including an astral projected fist fight, but the fight choreography is weak as all hell.
The most interesting parts of this movie are visual effects and strong acting. Never before have you seen so many people who could just as easily transition from saving the universe from invading dimensional immortal overlords to reciting the most poignant lines of the Bard at the Globe Theatre in London.
Cultural whitewashing aside (See, Tom Cruise in "The Last Samurai" or Jake Gyllenhal in "Prince of Persia," Jennifer Lawrence in "The Hunger Games" - okay, I never read the Hunger Games, but I heard she was supposed to brownskinneded, or even Elizabeth Taylor in "Cleopatra"), Tilda Swinton gave a great performance as The Ancient One and every major character enhanced the work of the other characters. Chiwetel was not the Transylvanian Baron from the comics with the pea green leotard; instead, they opted to call him just plain Mordo and make him a bit more understated - still, he's pretty damned good in everything from "12 Years a Slave" to the enigmatic agent hunting down the crew of Serenity in the movie of the same name. And the winner of the weirdest name in show business, Benedict Cumberbatch, was a exceptional as Doctor Stephen Strange. I would go as far as saying he was as good a cast for the role as RDJ was for Tony Stark. Maybe better! Yeah, I said it. As awesome as RDJ was as Iron Man, I think Benedict might be an even better pick for this role because who would've thunk this Brit could have pulled it off...? But I will hold off on the final verdict until Doctor Strange II drops.
The special effects were dizzying at times, but it begs to be seen in 3-D. Even though there was a crap ton of green screen effects, it doesn't bug you the way some movies do because the mystical world that they try to draw you into requires you to feel like you just had puffed some Purple & sipped some Lean (from what I hear...). Unfortunately, the story was just set up for a potentially good story. But they hit on every other aspect of the film, so there's that!
Go see it. It's worth the distraction for a couple of hours (and it's better than Suicide Squad) and stay for BOTH post-credit Marvel Cinematic Universe teasers.
IMTHATDUDE gives Doctor Strange: 4
RATING SYSTEM:5 = You should be about halfway to the theatre by now… Well… GET!
4 = Definitely worth the bread. Niiice.
3 = I won’t cuss anybody out and demand my paper back.
2 = Somewhere SOUTH of under-whelmed./I know it has a pulse, but…
1 = Not a good look. They played me AND I played myself.