Saturday, November 5, 2016

Doctor Strange - Movie Review

Title: Doctor Strange
Year: 2016
Director: Scott Derrickson
Writer: Scott Derrickson, John Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Rachel McAdams and Mads Mikkelsen
Bias: I really like the character of Doctor Strange.

"Be careful which path you travel down, Strange. Stronger men than you have lost their way." - Wong

Doctor Strange is probably one of my favorite characters in the Marvel Universe. I was so used to the normal superhuman stuff from the usual superheroes than when I saw Doctor Strange travel through dimensions and face weird ethereal beings, I was hooked. Now, when they cast Benedict Cumberbatch to play the titular character, I was even more excited. He looks spot on as the Sorcerer Supreme.

The film version of Doctor Strange tells the very unoriginal origin story of Dr. Stephen Vincent Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). Dr. Strange is an incredibly successful surgeon (reminds me a lot of Dr. Gregory House) who has a car accident and loses his ability to operate. So he shuns everything, including his friend/ex-girlfriend Dr. Christine Palmer) in the search of a cure for his ailing hands. During his travels, he finds a mystical place where The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), Master Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Wong (Benedict Wong) must help him become the sorcerer needed to save the world from rogue sorcerer Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen).

So, does the film stand up to the standards that the MCU has set? Yes and no. 

Let me explain. Visually, this film is like nothing I have seen when it comes to comic book movies. There are incredible visual sequences that rival those in Inception. The way the sorcerers could manipulate their surroundings was awesome and looked incredible. This is a movie worth shelling your cash to see in IMAX or CXC. Benedict Cumberbatch was perfectly cast as the arrogantly skeptic surgeon who must forget everything he has ever known in order to become Master Strange. The action sequences were fantastic, whether it would be the fight scenes with Scott Adkins as goon #1 or the chase scenes with the streets bending and blocks folding into themselves. The supporting cast are pretty good throughout, with Benedict Wong being my favorite. I also really enjoyed the dynamic between Strange and Dr. Palmer. She basically acts as a bridge between Strange's two lives, his life as a surgeon and as a sorcerer.

Other than that though, the film suffers from being incredibly creative when it comes to some moments, but end up being very sub par with others. The villain, for example, is lackluster to say the least. Mads Mikkelsen is a great actor, but Kaecilius' motivations are muddled into philosophical mumbo-jumbo. The film suffers from the case of over-explaining through exposition. Show me his motivations, don't tell me while they are trying to fight. His nameless goons are just that, nameless goons, that don't really add anything. Why are so many people following him? Why is he so whiny? He reminded me of Ronan the Accuser... and that is never a great thing.

The story of Doctor Strange is also a completely formulaic origin story. While the extraneous stuff is very cool, it is too vanilla for such an interesting concept of a hero. I would have liked for them to skip the origin or do it as quickly as possible in the beginning. The comedy was sometimes a little too much for me. Once or twice is okay, but when too many scenes in a row have jokes in them, it lost me a little bit. They tried to turn Doctor Strange into Tony Stark, and while that is smart for Marvel Studios, it is not really who Strange is.

I will give props to Michael Giacchino's score for the film. It fits in perfectly as menacing but also sprinkled with some moments of wonder. It is fitting for a film that while dealing with serious stuff (in movie) also has time to be funny.

In the end, the film is a spectacle that you should definitely go see if you enjoy superhero films. If you are looking for a by-the-numbers story with some amazing visual effects, this is the film for you. If you want a little more depth to the characters you see on screen or with the story that is being told, go into it knowing what you are going to get.

I will give this film, 6.5 Eyes of Agamotto out of 10. 

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