“Doctor Strange” builds on Marvel movie formula, cinematic universe

“Doctor Strange” is Marvel Studio’s latest release, and as such, gives the superhero movie fan base what they were looking for as the next part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline, as well as a well-made film adaptation of a great comic.

While watching “Doctor Strange” this past weekend, I was immediately reminded of the first “Iron Man” movie that came out only eight years ago. The titular character of Dr. Strange parallels that of Tony Stark. He begins an egotistical, wealthy, flirty and funny man who becomes humbled by some event early on in the movie. Then, throughout the course of the hero’s journey he learns the values that accompany most any superhero, that there is something bigger than himself. And though this seems to be the same old Marvel movie that we’ve grown used to over the past couple years, “Doctor Strange” executes the formula as well as Marvel has ever, if not slightly better in the action, humor and drama it presents as well as its ability to focus on what’s important in the story rather than trying to deviate and include something (like a superficial romance side plot).

The setting of the movie is in New York, but the time period, and important element of the plot,  changes as the movie progresses. There are several Easter eggs and other references to previous movies that give some context for the time at which the events are set, including some screen time for the Avengers tower. The story also mentions the Avengers in relation to the Kamar-Taj, the group Dr. Strange becomes a part of in the movie. Specifically, the characters refer to the Kamar-Taj as a group of protectors against the ethereal and magical threats to Earth, whereas the Avengers protect against physical ones. So, if the movie is meant to do anything for the MCU (Marvel Cinimatic Universe), it’s explaining the history behind a character that probably has a strong role in the upcoming “Avengers: Infinity War.”

So, the film does a great job of setting itself in the context of the MCU, but with all that aside “Doctor Strange” still manages to be a entertaining movie. Benedict Cumberbatch makes it look easy to convey the wittiness and likeability of this character, magic powers and all. Tilda Swinton carries herself in the film as a powerful and authoritative “Ancient One” — the makeup department does a excellent job transforming her and other characters as well, so props to them (pun intended). Amongst other great supporting actors, Rachel McAdams fulfills an interesting love interest without falling into the typical cliche ‘damsel in distress’ and, as mentioned earlier, distracting from the main storyline.

However, perhaps the most effective aspect of the movie is its powerful sense of direction. The story is always moving forward and keeping the audience engaged. From the first scene of the film, an antagonist is introduced to immediately make the audience ask questions, like who is he? What is he doing? Why does he care about our main character?

As some of these questions get answered later in the film, more complicated questions arise, only to, in turn, be resolved with satisfying answers in later parts in the plot.

More than one character changes in one way or another and the effective dialogue adds substance to the film rather than act as a filler between action sequences. In effect, the superhuman fighting that does take place has real meaning and purpose, not a superficial purpose such as to display awesome and expensive visuals. This is one of the areas that Marvel has done well multiple times, and unfortunately one that the DC Comics’ counterparts haven’t mastered yet.

By the end of the movie, everything feels in place and logically possible — within the laws of the insane multiverse illustrated in the movie, and a minor loop hole here or there. But, if you’re not a meticulous critic and get past them, then the movie is definitely worth the watch. Make sure to stay past the credits because there is not one, but TWO scenes that tease some key information about the events in the productions to come.