The problem with the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies is one many other franchises would love to have: consistency. Aside from a few exceptions, the MCU movies don’t stand out from one another in the grand scheme of things. Doctor Strange is perhaps the most acute example of this in the MCU thus far.
There’s nothing here that makes the film feel like a unique piece of work. Everything that might have been is more immediately reminiscent of other films. The sequences in the mirror dimension are similar to those seen in Inception or Paprika; the score sounded eerily like that of the Star Trek reboots. There’s not an original bone in this film’s body.
Benedict Cumberbatch is great in the title role. It starts out as a typical Benedict Cumberbatch role. Strange is snarky and arrogant at the beginning of the film. He has every right to be; he’s a world-famous neurosurgeon. But Cumberbatch sells Strange’s transition from arrogance to full-fledged hero rather well. This also extends to Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Karl Mordo and Benedict Wong’s Wong. The script is written such that the motivations of each of these characters is understandable. The note that the film ends on leaves them with a lot of potential avenues for the future and makes them some of the more exciting characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Unfortunately this isn’t the case with some of the characters, especially Mads Mikkelsen’s Kaecilius. His initial desire of eternal life isn’t particularly compelling. Kaecilius feels like a cipher for a bigger, badder villain to come and nothing more. The problem is that the villain that comes isn’t that much more interesting.
This also extends to Tilda Swinton’s The Ancient One. One almost wishes Strange would have done the entirety of his study by himself or with Wong. It would have made for a more interesting movie. The Ancient One doesn’t really do anything in this movie and Swinton seems to phone it in.
Doctor Strange is not a bad film. It has some good parts to it, especially in the performances. On the whole, though, it doesn’t have anything that makes it truly unique in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.