Watching “Doctor Strange” felt like I was watching a two hour recording of a video game someone had quickly edited and uploaded to YouTube.
Most set pieces in the film have a distinct game feel to them, with characters automatically assuming fighting stances in evenly-spaced locations as if an unseen player was about to take control of them. The effects, while cool to look at, present the audience with almost as much cartoon Benedict Cumberbatch as the real deal.
Previous Marvel movies have merely skirted through the terrifying results of computer generated faces by slapping helmets on their heroes or figuring out some way to obscure said person’s face during a shot requiring the character to be an entire digital composite.
Steven Strange does not have that luxury, rocking nothing but a goatee and dickish attitude.
Given the amount of trippy magic used in the movie I feel as if I’m criticizing a “Harry Potter” flick for using too much CGI, but it bears noting that “Doctor Strange” suffers from having too many digital actors on screen for too long and wooden performances on a green screen set.
A shame, given Marvel all but avoided this issue during “Captain America: Civil War.”
For the uninitiated, Doctor Strange’s origin story is essentially the same as Tony Stark’s if one were to replace the Iron Man suit with magic. An arrogant but intelligent rich guy with a heart of gold gets served a slice of humble pie and becomes a paragon of humanity.
Strange does have a character arc. He grows as a person throughout the movie, but when one has a famously British actor playing a doctor who’s a snarky dick to everyone in his life, it is incredibly difficult to escape the shadow of Hugh Laurie’s “Dr. House.” Especially given Cumberbatch’s new American accent.
Gone is the laughable Bostonian drawl of “Black Mass,” only to be replaced with the same vaguely New York-ian twang popularized by Laurie during his run as Greg House, and it suits Cumberbatch’s inherently deep voice just fine.
Besides the effects, my one big gripe with “Strange” is the fact that it doesn’t really mean anything. This movie could have never happened and any information relevant to the “Avengers” plot could’ve been summed up in one or two lines from Cumberbatch.
Mads Mikkelsen is in the movie as a painfully bland “sorcerer turned to the dark side” character, whose makeup effects unfortunately give the impression he caught a double case of conjunctivitis from Barney the Dinosaur.
He steals a thing, he worships some big bad god thing that will destroy the yadda yadda yadda. The good guys eventually win and the bad guy loses, most likely never to be mentioned again despite his supposed omnipotence. Huzzah.
In short, it’s a Marvel movie that isn’t about a top-tier Marvel character. A fun ride with little to no substance to someone who wasn’t already a fan of said character.
Oh, and the 3D version is garbage.
3 out of 5 stars