Doctor Strange is a delightful conglomeration of mind games, morals and humor: Marvel’s latest superhero film has the trippiness of Inception, the sci-fi spirituality of The Matrix and the light-heartedness of Guardians of the Galaxy, elegantly tied together by Benedict Cumberbatch, an unexpected yet refreshing casting choice for Stephen Strange.
Strange, a dexterous surgeon and egocentric New York billionaire, loses the use of his hands in a freak accident and leaves his life behind to find healing– and to get his high-flying lifestyle back. After meeting a mystic Last Airbender-esque master in the Far East, Strange gets roped into a wild inter-dimensional adventure which shows him that he is not actually the center of the universe, but he can still use his skills to help it survive.
Doctor Strange succeeds as a movie, not because of repetitive fighting sequences, now a Marvel staple, but because of its beautiful visuals, elevating message, and deft humor. Watching the film was mesmerizing; it was a mandala of vibrant color and moving architecture; I left wanting to see more action sequences, a first for me in a Marvel movie.
In addition, Doctor Strange stands out because of its simple yet enduring message: we aren’t as important as we think we are… but we can do more to help others than we think we can. Strange evolved from disgustingly egocentric to admirably servant-hearted, and I left the movie both humbled and elevated- I saw that my value is not in what I garner for myself, but in what I do to help heal the world around me.
Lastly, Doctor Strange refuses to take itself too seriously- a necessary trait in what could’ve been an otherwise heavy movie. Cumberbatch plays Strange with appropriate gravity, but he always stays believably sarcastic. Interspersed throughout the movie are quips about pop music, wifi in the Himalayas, and even Strange’s costume, maintaining the humorous nonchalance that makes this movie so endearing.
The film is not without flaw, however. The casting directors, though on point with Cumberbatch, could have done better with the other characters. Most of Doctor Strange is set in the fictional, but obviously Asian, country of Kamar-Taj. The supporting characters are almost all residents of this country, so it would be logical to cast actors of Asian descent in these roles. However, these roles are not filled by Asian actors. The one supporting actor of Asian descent, Benedict Wong, plays his role with deft simplicity, and I was left wishing that the casting directors had not chosen to whitewash this superhero movie.
Doctor Strange itself is a prime example of the movie’s message: individuals are not as important as they think they are, but their actions can change the world. So it is with the film. It consciously recognizes that it’s just a movie, but its hope is that it will inspire the rest of the Marvel universe to be creative in its visuals, message, and jeu d’esprit.