Doctor Strange (SPOILER-FREE REVIEW)
Here it is FanBros, our spoiler-free review of Doctor Strange!
Formulas are a funny thing.
A formula is designed to produce specific results (in this case, you’re entertained). The Marvel formula for origin movies hasn’t changed since it the film franchise started: Introduce hero. Show the potential love interest early. Insert character flaws. Have those flaws come into conflict with the main character during fantastic events. Have that character overcome a revelation as they walk through long series of characters expressing the exact plot to them without any subtext. The main conflict arises and then the actual movie starts.
These are flaws that Doctor Strange have written all over it, but just manages to slightly overcome these in a fantastic second half. The film follows the story of an arrogant, self-absorbed surgeon (Benedict Cumberbatch) who experiences a terrible accident that removes the ability to use his hands in his profession. Seeking any means to return to his title of “world’s best surgeon,” he travels the world to a specific shaman group who help him find enlightenment towards a psychological solution towards his problem. He finds this hidden, mystical temple where they teach him even more than he bargained for with the mystical arts and he is suddenly plunged into a war of “light vs dark” as he gains a new path as sorcerer defender of our realm in the multiverse.
So, which movies does that synopsis remind you of? Iron Man? Green Lantern? Batman Begins? Ant Man? The answer is yes. And it is just as much of a sense of deja-vu watching it as it is reading about it.
Fortunately, the movie has three things working for it that actually make it worth the price of a 3D admission;
- The Cast: It’s fairly obvious that such strong talent was brought on to this film because it takes exactly that to deliver dialogue that doesn’t feel natural at any point during the film. Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) could be a very large drag on the script if it was portrayed by anyone else. He brings a sense of companionship, stern rules and explanation to the world, and he is also a complex foil that we all know is made to evolve into something larger later. Tilda Swinton‘s Ancient One is exactly what every trailer has explained to you she is: our Morpheus for the next two hours. I was refer to Ms. Swinton as ‘The Obtuse” due to her roles being as ambiguous as possible (Constantine). While they are amazing, we’re giving characters who are also designed as plot tools to push us forward, such as the great Mads Mikkelsen who’s performance adds a layer of depth to his villain Kaecillius that I wasn’t expecting from a usual Marvel film and he truly deserved to have more screen time. Rachel McAdams is simply playing the part of “love interest” who is so incredibly confused, yet supportive, sending that character archetype back a good six years. And Benedict Wong as Wong is played for comic relief and even has major moments cut, which is a shame for such a charming actor. But, he delivers where it matters.
- The Visuals: If it weren’t for the existence of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I would consider this to be the best of Marvel‘s action set-pieces. The choreography is frantic and kinetic. The intensity will have you entertained and can be appreciated upon repeat viewings. And the level of detail in the environments is enough to make you feel transported. The CGI is excellent and will even have you interested in a making-of for some scenes whenever the film has its home release.
- The Innovation: One thing we’ve most certainly been lacking in this year are original concepts and ideas in a film that make it worth having a new experience in a theater. And Doctor Strange definitely delivers. There’s a point in the film where it finally decides to “show you instead of tell you” and it causes the film’s entertainment factor to go up many levels. Similar to The Matrix and Inception, the movie shows you (or very heavy-handedly explains to you, in its worst moments) what exactly you need to know to follow this frenetic fight scenes when the chaos starts. The many worlds, different types of spells and environment bending is far more entertaining when it makes sense and develops a set of rules that you can follow. This is the entire point of this movie and it honestly makes me want to segregate the character from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to maintain the established shorthand that this origin movie has the difficulty of doing the heavy lifting to establish.
Doctor Strange is a fun ride that requires you to sit through a movie that you’ve seen before, because they’re trying to give you a tutorial for the second half of the movie. While I agree this is necessary, it also shows that Marvel‘s intentions to rid us of origin stories and to have us jump into the middle of the action with these characters is the smartest move this franchise could pursue. I definitely give this film a theater recommendation, simply for the fun of the spectacle. But, it doesn’t feel like we’ll see it’s true potential until a sequel eventually conjures itself into our theaters.