This is a fun movie. Doctor Strange introduces a new and creative element into the Marvel universe that I never thought would work way back in the early days of Phase 1 in magic. Somehow, it does work. While once again there's very little mention of the rest of the universe, this time around it kind of makes sense because of the inclusion of multiverses and the ability to alter time. At least in Doctor Strange's world they can effectively explain how they can level a major city and yet have no one from the rest of this universe notice. That said, this film is far from perfect. However if you're just looking to turn the brain off and have a fun time at a movie, you will be more than satisfied with Doctor Strange.
So, let's talk about what the film gets right. First off, it is damn good to see Benedict Cumberbatch in this universe now. He is great, as usual, as the lead, and the MCU is better off now that he's involved. The supporting cast is strong too. There's some well-deserved criticism surrounding the casting of Tilda Swinton, but Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, and Mads Mikkelsen are all strong in the supporting cast. (Though Mikkelsen is not a super memorable villain sadly) Rachel McAdams is in this too, but once again she fills a role that can be simply described as "the love interest." Deep sigh.
So, in my mind, there are two reasons why Marvel films are more fun to watch than DC films, and both of these reasons are massively amplified in this film. One is the humor. There are great one-liners and humorous asides all throughout the film, and it keeps the overall vibe of Doctor Strange lighthearted and fun. While it's not on the level as something like Guardians of the Galaxy, it also doesn't have to be. The humor is just meant to be a quick break from the overal plot and it allows the viewers to take a quick (and needed) breath before jumping back into this otherwise pretty heavy-handed Marvel film. The other major reason is the color palette. Marvel has long since had a vastly better color palette than DC, (it helps that Zack Snyder isn't involved with these films) but the color palette is amplified significantly in Doctor Strange, and as a result the movie looks absolutely gorgeous. Yes CGI also had a lot to do with the look of the film, but I would also argue that it still wouldn't look anywhere near as good without the diverse color palette. I mean, look at the picture I chose for this review! Do you think that was an accidental choice? Yes, there's good CGI there, but the colors are certainly what sells that shot. No way would DC be able to....conjure a film like this. (Ah? See what I did there?)
That said, this film is not perfect. There are a lot of corners cut in this film to get from point A to point B. Yes I know most Marvel films cut corners, but it was very tough for me to come to terms with just how quickly Doctor Strange comes to understand magic. He goes from a complete novice to master of the arts in just a few short scenes and in what looked like about 30 minutes of time in the film. It was a little ridiculous, but not enough to diminish the fun. The villain was also pretty weak. Mads Mikkelsen did the best he could, but the primary reason this villain was so underwhelming is due to very lackluster writing. His motivations made very little sense, and sadly he wasn't much more than bad simply because he needed to be bad. This is an overarching problem for many of the Marvel films, and it certainly continues here.
However, at the end of the day, Doctor Strange gets the job done. It is a fun time, even if it is an admittidly shallow experience. But thanks to some good acting and solid directing from Scott Derrickson (The Day the Earth Stood Still, Sinister, Deliver Us from Evil) this film ultimately falls square into the "good" category. It's a fun watch, but not much more than that.
The Critique: A solid performance from Benedict Cumberbatch as a unique new hero makes Doctor Strange a fun time, despite its shortcomings.
The Recommendation: It's a Marvel movie. Who isn't going to see this?
Rewatchability: Moderately High
The Verdict: 7/10 Good