While narratively it's your basic origin story that we all know chapter and verse, what kept me engaged throughout this film was the visuals. And I'm not even talking about the special effects. Of course they were amazing and deserving of their Oscar nod, but what I'm really talking about is the overall look of the film. This is the first time since the original Iron Man that I actually gave a damn about how a Marvel Movie looked.
On that first outing for Marvel Films, it was all uncharted territory. As daring as it was for the studio to go with Jon Favreau as director and Robert Downey Jr. as star, it was also daring for them to go with Matthew Libatique as DP. Prior to Iron Man he'd only done extremely "in your face" films for the likes of Darren Aronofsky and Spike Lee. Choosing Libatique served everyone well in that they were getting a cinematographer who would make sure that their film looked nothing like the (then) recent DC films Batman Begins and Superman Returns. He helped Marvel to stand out from the pack...and then they got cold feet.
Every Marvel Movie since has been pretty much the same. You could splice them all together into one film and you wouldn't really notice when things switched from Winter Soldier to Age of Ultron. They found a "house style" and they've stuck to it, which I guess is fine, but the imagery in these films seems more indebted to cinema than to comics. These movies look like other films you might find in a multiplex. Except for Doctor Strange. This film actually looks like a comic book. And at certain moments it even looks like the kind of day-glo poster you would buy in a Head Shop.
Maybe their unending string of hits has made them cocky and Kevin Feige is finally loosening the visual reigns because he feels they can do no wrong? Or have these movies become something akin to a Woody Allen film where the style is SO set in stone that the minor variations scream out for attention? I guess we'll just have to see how the next few installments look. Here's hoping for a little more variety.