Scott Derrickson was once the director of films I very much wanted to see, and then very much never wanted to see again. That changes with Doctor Strange, as it appears Marvel too is changing - learning, adapting, reverting back rather than forging relentlessly forth. Whether it be studio, director, or any other member of the vast team of artists and technicians working on this fantasy action film, Doctor Strange benefits from a synergy of style and intent that seeks to re-energize the Marvel superhero movie template, if only to an extent. Amid the constraints of brand and business, trumping all artistic concerns in the modern landscape of big-budget moviemaking, the creators at hand here expand their understanding of what can be accomplished within such a narrow model, and produce a cookie-cutter concoction that's flavoured with a little extra spice. The film is thus more like the comic book adaptations of old, less reverent to the demands of franchise and formula, a film on its own terms and with its own character. The script is witty, the performances strong, the aesthetic positively wonderful, and there's a mere couple of verbal references to the cinematic universe of which the film is a part. Odd, then, that Doctor Strange should actually falter on its own terms too, even as its franchise obligations are ultimately what prevent it from achieving its full potential. Whether knowingly or not, the story remains one of the redemption of the heterosexual white man and the realization of his true talent and importance, further holding the film back from its aspirations. But at least Doctor Strange aspires to anything at all, unlike so many of its MCU brethren.