Marvel has found a formula that works. Take a lesser known Marvel character (nobody cared about Iron Man until RDJ), add an incredibly charismatic actor, and fudge the story a bit to make it work inside of the MCU. When they took The Sorcerer Supreme and added Benedict Cumberbatch, this was bound to be a movie that worked at least on some level. I’m writing this review as a passive comic fan and without spoilers because I got to see it a few weeks before most of you will even get a chance.
First of all, Marvel cast a strong actor as a villain. Mads Mikkelsen was the best Bond villain in Daniel Craig’s run and he’s the second best villain that Marvel has thrown out to date. (He would be the third best if it weren’t for Shane Black completely screwing up Iron Man 3.) That being said, it is still a distant 2nd place. He’s no Loki but, have no fear, he’s no Ronin either. He brings a certain gravitas to Kaecilius that would have been hard for most people.
Secondly, don’t go in expecting the second coming of the first Iron Man movie. This movie is very good but it is not at that same level and setting your expectations too high could lead to a disappointing experience. It is better than Thor or the first Captain America movie. It isn’t as good as anything done by The Russo Brothers but, it does find itself in the upper half of all of the MCU movies. In a lineup that is consistently good, that’s pretty high praise.
When it comes to the effects, not many movies have done something cooler than the Doctor Strange team did in this film. I imagine that it was just a bunch of CGI artists sitting down and thinking, “What’s the coolest shit, most MC Escher thing that we could do?” When they found an answer to that question, that’s what they did. It was absolutely worth the ticket price to see those graphics alone. I watched this movie in 3D but I think that they would be just as cool in two dimensions. (You don’t get a choice when you go to the media previews.)
Lastly, I think that this movie is made even better if you don’t know much about Doctor Strange. As a passive comic reader, I had a few moments where I wasn’t as thrilled about the creative choices they made. I understand that those creative choices were made to fit inside of the MCU but, that doesn’t change my immediate reactions to those choices. That being said, I think that I’ll enjoy this movie even more the second time that I watch it. It’s a really good movie and I enjoyed Benedict Cumberbatch a lot in the film. I’m looking forward to seeing him in many more Marvel films in the future.