Marvel Studios has never won an Academy Award for best visual effects.

But that could very well change with Doctor Strange.

Marvel's newest film is its most visually stunning spectacle yet. You may quibble or carp over other aspects of the box-office hit, but the praise for Dr Strange's multiverse world is near-universal.

That's because with Doctor Strange Marvel finally finds its most exquisite melding yet of a comic book's artistic geneaology and state-of-the-art technology.


The film draws warm inspiration from the pages of Marvel legend Steve Ditko, but director Scott Derrickson and his Industrial Light & Magic effects wizards use those as a jumping-off point to melt our eyeballs in 21st-century ways as well. While Doctor Strange occasionally nods to The Matrix, the clearest precursor, of course, is Christopher Nolan's Inception.

Then there is the film's first great effects piece: an extended scene in which Strange travels out of body to get even a fleeting sense of the dimensionally possible, courtesy of the Ancient One (here a Celtic mystic who has fought for earthly peace for centuries). This is astral projection as electric Kool-Aid acid test. And it feels like what Stanley Kubrick might have conceived if he had a Marvel Studios play kit at his disposal.

The cinematic eye of Doctor Strange reflects an intelligent design approach that spans at least a half-century of direct influences (with nods to interlocking Celtic designs, for instance, that date back many centuries). This is cinematic art that is both of its time and timeless.

And in that way, Marvel Studios has pushed its own envelope, perhaps delivering the best visual movie of the year.