Doctor Strange

 photo doctor_strange_ver11_zpso25d43em.jpg photo starrating-3stars.jpgComic-book productions currently entertain as large a share of the overall film audience as they ever have. Moviegoers are inundated with product. This is the fourteenth entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) alone. I’m not even counting other features based on Marvel fiction like X-Men or Spider-Man and then there’s DC and all of its iterations. As with any series, some of it’s major (The Avengers) and some of it’s minor (Ant-Man). It’s just that there are so many origin stories. There is a template and they’re all so similar. There’s sort of a generic sameness that many of these superhero flicks fall into. The best redefine the genre and set their own course. Doctor Strange doesn’t raise the bar. However this creative fabrication does inundate the viewer with visual stimuli and to that end, the movie entertains.

Doctor Strange is thwarted by repetitive story beats. Brilliant/wealthy genius becomes helpless then discovers magical powers/suit after meeting a powerful entity. Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Bruce Wayne (Batman) are rather iconic at this point so it’s hard not to feel a little been there done that as this thin plot unfolds. In this case, our hero is an acclaimed neurosurgeon but loses the use of his hands in a car accident. He hears that the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton as a Celtic rather than Tibetan mystic) might be able to help him and he journeys to an isolated community in the Himalayas to meet her. The Ancient One shows Dr. Stephen Strange her powers. He pleads for her instruction, and she eventually agrees, despite his arrogant disposition. Some time later, Strange encounters a sentient cape and he dons it for protection.

The accomplished cast delivers their lines with all the gravitas of a Shakespearean drama. Star Cumberbatch has the serious demeanor to make all this silliness seem thoughtful. Jedi-like Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and his Morpheus-like master, the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), stand out as well. They make their preposterous lines seem credible. But Strange’s love interest, Christine (Rachel McAdams), is a particularly thankless role. Granted she’s not the proverbial damsel-in-distress. In fact, she’s even less important than that stereotype because her role is completely superfluous. Elsewhere Strange has learned to spin fire circles in the air that create doorways to escape to other places. It all builds to an expected showdown between good and evil as preordained by these fables. But Strange’ character arc makes no sense. First, he’s a jerk, then suddenly he’s not. Where did his climatic act of selflessness come from? The fact that it takes place in an alternate time-loop dimension is different at least.  Points for that I guess.

Doctor Strange is a formulaic origin story with dazzling computer-generated imagery. Director Scott Derrickson adheres closely to the superhero blueprint. He makes sure to add humorous quips that are indeed genuinely funny. After he accepts a card from Mordo, Strange asks, “What’s this? My mantra?” “It’s the wi-fi password,” Mordo responds. “We’re not savages.” Where filmmaker Derrickson steps outside the box is in the hallucinogenic head trip effects. The kaleidoscopic metropolis is rendered as if designed by M.C. Escher. Master of the mystic arts, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), and his minions chase after Strange and Baron Mordo through 3D manipulated landscapes that delight the eye. As one of the Ancient One’s former pupils, Kaecilius is a stock villain. Unfortunately, he’s a snooze. His dialogues with Dr. Strange are completely ridiculous.  Virtually everything he says is gibberish, but the visuals aren’t. It’s fun to watch.  It isn’t innovative though. The Matrix or Inception did these ideas earlier and did them better. It’s still fun to look at though. Doctor Strange is a dubious trendsetter – the first MCU movie where spectacle outshines a boilerplate adventure.


19 Responses to “Doctor Strange”

  1. smilingldsgirl Says:

    Interesting. I didnt find the dialogue or the story nearly as preposterous or generic as you did. To me this was a really satisfying origin story with an amazing lead performance from Bendict Cumberbatch. I guess if a formula is executed well it doesn’t really bother me. I have a few issues with it but I think it’s one of the better Marvel origin stories. My main problem is I got a little motion sick with some of the visuals

    • “Wealthy genius becomes weak then gets strong with powers from another entity plot” could just as easily be attributed to Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne. For the first time, it’s the spectacular visuals that top the story in an MCU movie.

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        Yeah it tops it but I didnt think it was a bad story. I mean I personally thpught it was much better than the story of Suicide Squad

      • Yeah no argument there. Suicide Squad was worse, but that’s low hanging fruit. Let’s compare it to Batman Begins or Iron Man. It pales next to those origin stories, or did you enjoy Doctor Strange more than those films as well?

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        No those are better but I still thought it was a strong execution of a formula story. That to me isnt a bad thing. It’s not a game changer like those films were but I thought it was satisfying. Like I think it’s a better origin story than Thor and I’d put the story right on par with Ant-Man. Benedict Cumberbatch was fantastic in the role I thought and that makes a difference in a formula film. I thought he sold the emotional journey of the character and drew me in quite well.

      • Question: First he’s selfish. By the end he’s selfless. How did he become that way?

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        Because he loses everything and then has to learn to harness the powers. This would humble anyone. I mean most superheroes get bitten or something and bam they are powerful. He actually had to become a new person in order to be powerful. It’s like going to medical school all over again in a way.

      • Interesting. That’s not apparent on screen. Did you read the comic perhaps?

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        Ha. Yeah I did so could be part of it. I admit. 🙂

        But I don’t think it’s not there. I mean when he’s outside the door begging for help is that not a humble moment? And then he gets his training over many months where he is not good at the magic at first and is frustrated. He even gets left on Everest. That would be humbling. Shrug

      • You’re reaching. LOL But hey glad you enjoyed it so much. I’m selective. It’s fine. I had fun with it. Just not anything I’m gonna remember in a few weeks or years from now.

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        Ha. Well we will have to see how it holds up. Ive only seen it once. It could be like Ultron for me that lost a bit of luster on rewatch or like Guardians of the Galaxy that I like more each time I see it. I dont think it’s reaching to see humility in a man begging for help. Anyway glad you had fun with it.

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        It’s not like my favorite movie of the year but I really enjoyed it

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        I dont know if you are more selective than I am. I mean you had a more positive review of XMen Apocalypse which I hated and Miss Peregrines. It’s just different taste I suppose

      • I said I’m selective. Never said you weren’t as well. 😊

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        Ha fair enough 😉

  2. I enjoyed this for what it was. A superhero movie. The visuals were pretty good. I got a lot of “inception”, from this. Got quite a few laughs. 3 1/3 stars.

  3. I’ve heard that Doctor Strange’s greatest weakness is its repetitive story beats. For that reason I haven’t been in a rush to see it. I have heard the movie is at least visually stimulating, so I am curious to catch it eventually for that reason.

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