This one blew everybody away with its trippy visuals, but how did the rest of the film stack up? Let’s take a look!
Doctor Strange (2016)
Overview: Stephen Strange is a brilliant surgeon who has it all, until a car accident destroys his hands and his livelihood. Desperate for any kind of help, he ends up in Nepal where he meets The Ancient One, a mysterious woman who shows him how to use magic to find a new purpose in life.
The pacing is great and the main character is given a great arc. It blends humor and drama effectively. There’s a few times when the script has to sort of shove a character into a realization to keep the plot moving (Mordo’s transition into a villain seems rushed, especially considering how extremely evil he goes in the post-credits scene). And there are times when the script throws in cool action scenes which go on for a little too long (the disembodied hospital fight is one. It’s fun, but it cuts into the time Strange and Palmer have to tie up their loose ends, considering she never shows up after that scene). But overall, it keeps things going pretty well.
There’s no question about this one. This film looks absolutely incredible. The trippy reality folding within the mirror dimension, the fiery spark aesthetic of the magic, the grand sweep of the visuals, it all works really well. The scene where the Ancient One first sends Strange hurtling through the multiple layers of the multiverse is enough to merit a perfect 10/10 on its own, but it keeps outdoing itself with each massive conflict. One of my favorite scenes is where Strange draws Kaecilius into the mirror dimension and the baddie proceeds to literally fold the city around them into origami before the Ancient One shows up to stop him.
The Villain: 7/10
Kaecilius is certainly dangerous, but he falls into single-minded antagonist mode pretty quick. We don’t get a lot of his fall from grace (which would have been where most of the character’s complexity would have come through) and as a result, he tends to be pretty one-dimensional. His wants never change. He never explains his inner motivations (to the characters or the audience) with enough complexity to make him compelling. And aside from one scene, he’s never really allowed a lot of personality. He’s a single-minded zealot, and that’s not really interesting because they bury any internal conflict so deep that we don’t get to see the character as anything but a “I must destroy everything because I have to” sort of villain.
Count: not very many until the Hong Kong scene
This isn’t really an explosion-heavy movie. I guess the explosions all happen when the reality-bending visuals blow our minds, but this one doesn’t really need a lot of explosions since the whole point of everything is restraint and control.
Favorite explosion: the backwards one in Hong Kong.
The Hero’s Journey: 9/10
Stephen Strange starts out as a Tony Stark character, but while Tony comes to realize that his actions hurt others far more than they hurt himself, Strange is in the business of saving lives, so he has to literally lose everything before he’s able to learn his lesson, which is great. He’s no longer a millionaire by the movie’s end. He’s lost all his possessions save for the broken watch. I like his growth as a character, even though I take some issue with the whole, “American comes and surpasses everyone else who’s working hard to discipline themselves and he becomes the most powerful member of the order by breaking the rules” trope. I guess Mordo takes issue with that, too, and that’s why he goes evil at the end… Stephen’s still a great character, a sort of similar personality to Tony Stark, but I get the feeling that since he’s replaced surgical prowess with magical prowess, his ego may return, potentially negating all the growth he made in Kamar-Taj. We’ll have to see how his character grows in future installments.
Score and Rank
1. Captain America: Civil War (49/50)
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (46/50)
3. The Avengers (45/50)
4. Iron Man (43/50)
5. Doctor Strange (42/50) This seems fair. I was worried it would fall lower. This one and Iron Man 3 are tied, but RT rates this one about 20 ish points higher, so I guess it wins out!
6. Iron Man 3 (42/50)
7. Guardians of the Galaxy (41/50)
8. Captain America: The First Avenger (40/50)
9. Thor (39/50)
10. Avengers: Age of Ultron (39/50)
11. Ant-Man (38/50)
12. Thor: The Dark World (36/50)
13. The Incredible Hulk (34/50)
14. Iron Man 2 (33/50)