2016 has admittedly been a pretty hit-or-miss year for superhero movies, ranging from great movies like “Deadpool,” to considerably less great movies like “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “X-Men: Apocalypse.” It’s easy to begin to feel the fatigue of superhero movies that are less and less inclined to take risks or change format. That’s not necessarily a criticism of the superhero movie, which even in its most generic form is generally entertaining, but it does create a yearning for something new that could put a good spin on the genre.
All of that being said, we come to “Doctor Strange” and its place in the pantheon of superhero films. What should be said first, and be easily expected, is that the movie is a satisfyingly entertaining time. It has all the fun, action, humor and heart that you’ve come to expect from a Marvel movie. This goes back to the point that all these movies feel a little similar, but “Doctor Strange” sets itself apart from the rest enough to feel like its own unique experience. The number one cause of this is the special effects, which go above and beyond to show our world like we’ve never seen it.
“Doctor Strange” provides a more flashy take on the jaw-dropping effects similar to those seen in “Inception,” the pioneer movie for these types of visual effects. The constant shifting of the world at the whim of the characters is a treat to behold, and adds a whole new element to the standard action scenes. Sometimes, it makes these action scenes very confusing to watch, but for the most part it is an engrossing setting to watch sorcerers duke it out.
Beyond the cinematography and special effects that give the action pieces a unique flair, the movie also obtains much of its humor and heart from the characters and the cast playing them. Benedict Cumberbatch leads as Dr. Strange, and he’s a magnetic actor. We become invested in his journey from an arrogant surgeon to noble sorcerer. One small nitpick is that this is the third time I’ve seen Cumberbatch play an American, and it’s the third time I’ve been distracted by his unconvincing American accent. However, that’s a small flaw in a largely great performance.
The movie’s weakest element is not its hero, but its villain. While the standard Marvel movie is usually enjoyable, but you can expect the standard Marvel villain — an un-memorable villain with ill-defined motivations and little backstory. This is precisely the case with the “Doctor Strange” main villain Kaecilius, played by Mads Mikkelsen. Mikkelsen actually gives a fine performance, but it’s for the most part a waste. Kaecilius is not at all the worst villain I’ve seen, but he’s doomed to join the ranks of Malekith, Ronan and all of the other characters you don’t remember.
“Doctor Strange” had the honor of being the last superhero movie of 2016, and it turns out to be one of the better ones of the year. If you feel tired of this type of movie, I don’t blame you; but for those that are still on the superhero train, or at the very least appreciate a mostly original-looking fantasy action movie, then “Doctor Strange” is a satisfactory blockbuster for all your mid-November needs.