Just got back from it and I'd say it's just OK, and that's disappointing because I was ready to love this film.
My first issue was that I didn't connect with any of the characters the way I wanted to. The best character moment of the entire film is the Ancient One's speech towards the end, and even that doesn't fully hit home because her relationships with the other characters aren't firmly established. That said, her character felt the most "alive" to me. I'm shocked that Strange felt so hollow. It's certainly a result of us not getting to spend enough time with him before his accident, and he doesn't reveal enough of his character through action; it's mostly explained by others' dialogue.
There's a lot of people saying and behaving a certain way because the script requires they do so to move the plot along. For example, Strange's assholish freakout at Christine felt jarring and forced. I know we're told that he's an arrogant prick before that moment, but he's never really played as THAT bad a guy. He's fairly playful and respectful to her prior to his accident. Sherlock is a far better example of Cumberbatch playing the kind of jerk that you can't stand as a person, but root for as a hero, and hope he can find an emotional centre to connect to other people.
I thought Chiwetel Ejiofor's performance was muddled, exaggerated and inconsistent. You don't get to understand the character's motivation until the last scene of the movie, and I didn't track where that came from. One moment he's this righteous warrior fighting to protect Earth, calling Strange a coward (why?) when he refuses to "kill" and the next he's working to rid the world of sorcerers because he learns that the Ancient One dabbled in the dark arts? So without trying to understand why she did, or what she used it for, he goes totally off the rails because he's a believer in naturalism? He's a world-bending sorcerer: I wouldn't exactly call his use of magic as "natural." I just don't get this dude's arc.
In general, there's a lot of undercooked shit like that in the plot that doesn't add up. At one point after his first battle, Strange freaks out because he's there to "learn to heal himself" not be a mystical warrior. This is supposed to be the moment in the hero's journey where he reluctantly accepts the call. Fine, but I don't get what Strange thought he was getting himself into to begin with when he joined. Did he not figure out that this wasn't just a magic medical school when he saw the karate lessons and magic weapon training? I guess maybe that was a common activity at his medical school.
I remember reading that Feige said that the movie takes place between the first Iron Man and current day. The idea being that Strange had been perfecting the mystic arts over the last 8 years. I thought this was an incredibly awesome idea but the film actually suggests that it takes place in a post-Avengers world, and maybe sometime before the events of Age of Ultron (you see Avengers tower standing tall in New York). First, I think the time period should have been specified more explicitly because we need to know how this character feels about the world he's in - if it's post-Avengers then he shouldn't be so weirded out by the mystic arts if he's watched aliens invade Earth. Second, there was a missed opportunity to show that Strange was actually the first of the Marvel heroes to to be organically learning about all of the extra-dimensional weirdness before any of the other earth heroes. You could show a scene where Strange observes the Battle of New York and wants to intervene, but the Ancient One / Wong makes the comment that it's the Avengers job to protect Earth from physical threats, not Strange and co's.
- Dormammu: cool.
- Comedy beats are hit and miss, but mostly too jokey and forced.
- Rachel McAdams and Mads Mikkelsen do nothing in this movie.
- Wong casually revealing that the Eye of Agamotto is one of the infinity stones was pretty forced; as if Strange knows what that means?
- Mid-credits scene was Marvel's worst, but the after-credits sets up the next Strange movie nicely.
Overall I give it 6.5/10 - The movie is never boring and always entertaining: the action scenes and the VFX are awesome and the 3D was terrific. I just don't think this is as well-written, structured or executed as Marvel's usual work.