Scott Derrickson’s direction pulls the film together in spite of the dense mythology. He’s mostly known for genre efforts like Sinister and Deliver Us From Evil, but in Doctor Strange, Derrickson delivers a psychedelic phantasmagoria that’s totally unprecedented in his body of work. Strange trips through the Multiverse (I actually wondered what Kubrick would have done with 2001’s Star Gate sequence if he’d had 3-D), tumbles through walls during an astral-projection brawl, and fights across a massive city landscape that’s splitting, folding, and twirling in upon itself. The supercharged visuals go on and on. There are plenty of references on display — moments in the city sequences feel like scenes cut from Inception — but they’re nevertheless imaginative new terrain for both the filmmaker and Marvel, which has largely struggled to bring any kind of new aesthetic to its portfolio, aside from the ‘70s-inspired grit of the recent Captain America films.
Even with the visual grandeur, however, there’s an underlying sense that Marvel isn’t entirely sure audiences are ready for the far-out concepts it’s introducing. The next stage of Marvel films will go all-in on the big-bad Thanos and the ultra-powerful Infinity Stones (we break them down here), and that level of pure comic bookiness will be a jump from the relatively grounded approach Marvel’s original slate of films took. Doctor Strange is no doubt meant to help bridge that transition by setting up the weirder aspects of the world, but at times, the movie seems insecure about its own bizarro tendencies.
It’s seen throughout the film, from the vague motivations of Mads Mikkelsen’s generic baddie to the casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One. (That decision was influenced by fears of the ethnic stereotyping associated with the original character, and by a squeamishness about acknowledging a Tibetan hero and potentially alienating the Chinese market. Still, the choice inevitably looks like cultural whitewashing.) But that insecurity is most exemplified by an awkward strain of pop-culture humor that feels absolutely shoehorned into the film. The Eminem and Beyoncé references just feel desperate and needy. (Reviews: The Verge)
Watch the fragment below where Benedict Cumberbatch (Dr. Strange) mentions Adele, Drake and Eminem: