By Kieffer Wilson, Contributor
Each Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) character has a consistent theme that shapes their films. Iron Man is about the internal struggles of Tony Stark, Captain America is about the relationship between Bucky Barnes and Steve Rogers and The Avengers is about the clashing of morals and personality. Doctor Strange is different from these films, because it doesn’t care so much for the struggles of its characters. Instead, it takes a page from Guardians of the Galaxy’s book and goes head first into the visuals, hoping it is enough to keep afloat.
Doctor Strange is the story about the most unlikeable character in the MCU. Awards line his walls, his drawers are filled with swiveling, expensive watches and his Lamborghini is the nicest car on the road. He is reminiscent of Tony Stark as he looks over New York from his high-rise apartment with full glass-panes lining the walls, except he doesn’t have the charm. He sees everyone as lesser, he is full of himself, and he shows off during surgery by playing musical trivia during operation. Steven Strange is the guy at work that no one wants to hang out with because he isn’t any fun.
While talking on the phone, Strange’s car bumps into another vehicle to cause an over exaggerated car wreck. After the highest doctors tell him that his condition is irreversible, he goes to Kamar-Taj to seek different, more spiritual methods. This begins his process of becoming the interdimensional magician tasked with defending the Earth.
Steven is filled with stress throughout his journey, but these conflicts rarely communicate why the audience should care. Life as a magician means making choices about his relationships and his health that should be dramatic. However, these scenes that should communicate emotional conflict to the audience skips by without importance. It makes all the characters feel as if they can only change physically, and are trapped as shallow cutouts of characters.
Despite its terribly dull story, Doctor Strange stands out thanks to its incredible visuals. This is clear from the beginning, which puts aside the narrative to show the audience just what type of film they paid for by throwing buildings into each other, transforming shapes into kaleidoscopic effects and having characters fight with blazing shields and whips. This is only a teaser of what the film has to offer. The spectacle continues throughout the film when the doctor is sent to the astral dimension and when he is traveling through time and space.
When magicians fly through dimensions and space in Doctor Strange, it creates an awe and wonder that CGI-centric films haven’t created since Inception or The Matrix. Unlike these two films though, Doctor Strange has trouble sustaining these other-wordly feelings due to its unlikeable character and ineffective conflicts. It is enough to make the film a fun, enjoyable superhero movie, but it is hard to see how the franchise will hold up for the future.