Summary: A former neurosurgeon embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts.
Director: Scott Derrickson
Writers: John Spaihts, Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill and Steve Ditko (creator of the character of Doctor Strange)
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelson and Tilda Swinton.
Marvel brings fans a brand new superhero with Doctor Strange hitting theaters on November 4th. While the cast of good guys that have shown their colours over the past few years have yet to fully immerse themselves in the realm of magic, Doctor Strange gladly levitates his way in to expand the universe to these realms that have yet to be discovered. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, minus his fantastic British accent, as the great Doctor Strange, this latest installment delivers a psychedelic and mind-bending spectacle of a man who is on a journey to rediscover himself. Assisted with a brilliant array of actors, the movie continues to bring glory to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Brilliantly delivering a unique magic system without stepping on its own shoes, Doctor Strange shows us the many wonders of the mind and spirit through magic.
Among the many sequels to already well-established superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this movie brings fans a colourful and dazzling superhero origin story. Even if the story revisits a very familiar Chosen One formula, it is the intricate and mesmerizing world of the mystic arts that help pardon the approach. The movie starts off grounded to only slowly, but surely, flourish in a boundless multiverse that is brilliantly meshed into Earth. As per the usual, Doctor Strange also continues to perpetuate the relentless comedy that makes Marvel movies so family-friendly. Although far from perfection, the sheer stunning visual experience delivered succeeds in dwarfing all the faults and formulaic storytelling. Withal, Doctor Strange remains an entertaining and quality movie that should not be overlooked.
Doctor Strange is definitely one of the better Marvel superhero movies to hit the theaters. That doesn’t however mark it as another perfect movie. If looked upon more carefully and not let ourselves ride the waves of fun entertainment, this movie has its own set of problems. I do have to give it to them for being able to hide them properly by giving fans something that is quite rare in cinema nowadays, that is a stunning and kaleidoscopic movie. Doctor Strange is, without any reproach, a visually beautiful movie that plays well with perception and dimensions. It shows that there is a lot more than what the eye can see, only if you are willing to open your mind. This isn’t to advocate the use of some of those powerful and illegal psychedelic drugs out there. Stay away from those things! What Doctor Strange does is show a multilayered universe that can be bent and manipulated through time and space.
The theme of perception is in fact well dealt with throughout the plot. Besides the obvious manipulation of both visual perception as well as time, the movie also covers the concept of perception that fundamentally drives individuals. In fact, Stephen Strange has lived his whole life as an individual focused on his job and nothing more. His ability to look beyond his self was never existent and this has kept him from being more than what he was as a neurosurgeon. As the movie progressed and through the help of the Ancient One, Strange learns to see the world outside of his box and empathize. He expands his knowledge of understanding people by changing his perception, from being self-centered to being unselfish and thinking of others. His fight with Dormammu clearly shows his character’s evolution, where he prefers to repeatedly die for the sake of humanity. The movie clearly finds its strong suit by exploring the concept of perception.
Doctor Strange’s story can be seen in multiple parts. As I previously mentioned, it isn’t anything quite complex, but rather something that has often been used in Hollywood movies. The obvious thing about it is that it will always seem to appeal the audience, making it rather hard to stray away from it. What the movie does is follow a sequential storyline that leads us to understand Stephen Strange as the unlucky, and unlikely, fellow who saves the world. The movie can be basically divided into two parts: pre-magic and post-magic. During the pre-magic segment, we’re presented with a down-to-earth drama that leads our arrogant and witty protagonist to hunt for a cure in the heart of Kamar-Taj. The movie dealt with the issue of time quite well, but the transitions sometimes felt a little off and made it sometimes hard to grasp the duration of events. This issue also persists a little during the first part of the post-magic segment.
In fact, the training that he foregoes to quickly become the majestic Doctor Strange was insane. His mastery of the mystic arts felt like a cakewalk, but definitely a pleasant and fun one. It’s from this point on that you understand the formula that drives this movie. It starts off with a man who needs something and then has to go through a training to obtain it. He is then faced with a villain and uses his training to try and defeat him. He finally ends up winning the battle and preventing a war only to choose between his old and new motivations. Besides the impossible task to know how long this adventure was, from the moment we see Stephen Strange conduct a surgery in a very joyful manner to the moment we learn about the infinity stone that hung around his neck, the origin story is quite simple for Doctor Strange. It’s in fact the power of the visual effects, coupled with the comedy and the brilliant acting, that helped deliver such an entertaining movie.
A problem that quickly sprouted from the movie lied in Marvel’s very signature, the comedy. After all, it wouldn’t be a Marvel movie if it didn’t have an abundance of comedy right? The problem was in that very abundance. I don’t know who’s kicking the director’s ass to get him to do this, but the movie had a lot of unnecessary and untimely comic relief. Don’t get me wrong. Benedict Cumberbatch’s personality was on point and there were several hilarious moments—I’m looking at you, sexy red cape. It’s those comedy moments that were put at some of the more serious and climatic moments that were killer. One of those moments that I had a hard time digesting is when Strange picks up a vase relic and Kaecilius pauses to interject about Strange’s ignorance on how to use it. While plenty of people could easily laugh it out, moments like those were a little too many for my taste throughout the movie.
One of the biggest problems of this movie, and it would probably be the biggest disappointment for me too, was the villain. For those who see the pattern, Marvel continues to struggle in giving their fans a villain that is actually well-developed and absolutely memorable. Their success rate in that department sadly maintains the momentum and now reaches a single-digit percentage. I love Mads Mikkelsen (#praise #hannibal), but man did he not get the chance to shine properly in this one. The movie fails to give the character of Kaecilius enough screen time to shine. With the material and the moments that were actually given to him, the character barely comes out as a terminator (T-1000 anyone?) with a mission that he blindly believes to be for the greater good. Even his awkward moment where he explains his goals while being trapped in that body cage was underwhelming. In the end, because of the comedy and the lack of spotlights on him, Kaecilius felt like a joke waiting to be taken care of. I mean, both Kaecilius and Dormammu had various ways to win, but just didn’t.
Doctor Strange remains a fun and exciting movie that is worth checking out on a big screen. An IMAX 3D experience would actually be something to think about for this particular superhero too since its visual effects are wildly sensational. Although I went into the theaters today with my love for Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams and Mads Mikkelson, the movie only further crystallized my respect for them. There are changes that could be made to make this movie a timeless masterpiece—by giving the chance for some actors to shine even more for example (Yes, Mads, I know…)—but the final results still manages to stand on its feet and give fans a wonderful experience. The integration of Doctor Strange to the Marvel Universe only makes the upcoming Infinity War even more exciting and hectic. This movie alone also has its own fair share of surprises (like the good-gone-bad Mordo) for a potential Doctor Strange 2.