Oct 31, 2016

[Movies] Doctor Strange (2016)

I was very skeptical when it was announced that Phase 3 of the big Marvel Cinematic Universe included the magic-centric title Doctor Strange, but I was certainly open to see what they might accomplish with the character and his part of the Marvel Universe.

The tricky bit about Doctor Strange is that his narrative has always been a quirky one. On the surface his origin story is very close to Iron Man as he is also an entitled, affluent white man who goes through an ordeal and finds wisdom through an Asian mentor. The series involved a lot of characters narrating their own actions and naming the magic spells being used every single time. And that sort of a routine would look pretty silly on the big screen.

But at the same time, a lot of that silliness is really part of what defined the series in the early days and gave it a distinct feel. Figuring out how much of that was really essential to the character and thus important for the movie was the main challenge of the development of this movie, I expect.

Synopsis: Doctor Strange is a 2016 Marvel superhero movie directed by Scott Derrickson with a screenplay by Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill. The story was crafted by Jon Spaihts.

The movie begins with Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) as a brilliant neurosurgeon whose hands are terribly injured in a car accident, thus ending his surgical career. He scours the world for any possible experimental treatment that might repair the nerve damage ands ends up looking for a place called Kamar-Taj somewhere in Kathmandu, Nepal. Around the same time, the sorcerer Kaecilius manages to steal a page of an old text that describes a forbidden ritual from the library of Kamar-Taj. Once he deciphers the spell, he and his disciples most likely going to bring upon the end off everything in exchange for immortality and power.

What I Liked: The movie is a beautiful visual assault that is the weird result of things like The Matrix, Inception and your standard kaleidescope were mixed together in a movie. The effects create some pretty brilliant moments that are way better than any collection of dots and swirls we've seen in the comic. In this regard, they did a great job of finding a way to visually represent the diversity of the world of magic.

The story wasn't too shabby either with some heavy metaphysical ideas thrown about in a manner that seemed generally approachable to most audiences with only minimal drag to exposition-heavy dialog at times.. You can only move a Doctor Strange movie so quickly given its need to establish its own rules.

Oh, and the Cape of Levitation? BRILLIANT.

What Could Have Been Better: As much as I love Tilda Swinton as an actress, she made no sense in this movie. As head of this group of sorcerer's, why is their main base in Nepal? The organization may be diverse in terms of ethnicity, it still didn't make sense how things came to be as they were. And the direction to make the magic to be seemingly tied to a lot of martial arts moves made this all feel like an attempt to make Avatar work. I didn't need them shouting spells at one another all the time but I would have appreciated a few key moments.

The way things were resolved in the end did feel quite clever, but at the same time felt like the sort of clever that was more at home in a Doctor Who two-part episode or something. It made sense, but I don't know if it was the sort of ending that convinces me that Strange deserves to be Sorcerer Supreme.

TL;DR: I think this movie is along the lines of the best we couldn't hope for given a concept heavy character like Dr. Strange. I wish some casting choices had been different, but on the whole it's a very enjoyable movie. Thus it gets 4 strange creations from the Dark Dimension out of a possible 5.

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