Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Movie Review: Doctor Strange

I saw Doctor Strange shortly after it came out. I will examine plot, character and polish before assigning a grade.


How can anyone compared this movie to Iron Man 1? Here are the only similarities: Arrogant and brilliant rich guy gets injured somehow, his worldview changes, he develops new abilities and decides to become a superhero. That's it. That is all. It's high level, basic, general stuff, and it's going to be shared across a lot of stories. The reason for the arrogance, brilliance and wealth is different; the injury is different and has a different context. The way the worldview changes is different. The new abilities are different and the way that they are developed is even more so. Their enemies and how they deal with these enemies are different. Their natures as superheroes and why they make the decision and where they are at the end of their origin are all different. "How Dr. Strange is different from Ironman" could be its own blog post and it would likely be longer than this review here.
Anyone who has read my blog for a while knows my feelings on The Fruitless Quest for Originality.

 In sum, Marvel Studios is making super hero movies. Therefore, they will all share certain characteristics because they are in the same genre. That's a good thing. Superhero movies are what people go to see (yes, different people have different tastes and go for different things (like Loki) but all these things are under the same umbrella)).

Despite the previous paragraphs, there's plenty of original stuff here.
1. This the first MCU movie in the fantasy genre. Previously entries have all been science fiction or sufficiently advanced science at most. Now we have sorcerers and mystic threats like Dormmau.
2. Kaecilius is neither the "unstoppable monster" nor the "white guy in a suit" that I've heard critics complain about in regards to MCU villains. He's driven neither by greed nor ego nor fantastic racism but a sense of great personal loss. The villain revealed in the stinger is also quite different from anything else seen in the MCU so far.
3. Strange is a doctor, and unlike Bruce Banner, he IS that kind of doctor (i.e. medical) which means the Hippocratic Oath comes into effect. You will not find a climax resolution like this one anywhere else in the MCU.
The movie follows a steady and logical progression. I've heard some say that the manner of which Dr. Strange first heard about Kalma-Taj is an unbelievable coincidence and to that I say "miraculous recoveries are going to make waves and other patients looking for miracles are going to ask about them". There is no instant expert here' "study and practice; years of it" are what it takes to be a competent sorcerer and even shortcuts like photographic memory and reading books in astral form while your body sleeps only takes a novice so far so fast. Strange is outclassed by every sorcerer out there and he doesn't win via luck or asspulls (whether or not you consider the Cloak of Levitation to be one of those is YMMV).
The ending is great. Stephen Strange is all set up to act as Doctor Strange in future films but it doesn't have any of that Mighty Whitey stuff that people were worried about (the Ancient One is a more complicated topic) because of spoiler (I can discuss this with a reader privately if they would like to do so).  The stinger shows him in his classic costume and jumping into another dimensional threat adventure.


Strange is great. Benedict Cumberbatch did a great job with both the arrogance that Strange starts with and the selflessness that he develops. He has distinctive traits like his watch collection, insistence on the Hippocratic Oath and the bookwormness. The circumstances of his heroism are also well played. He is a different kind of hero than any other presently in the MCU; he's not an atoner (Iron Man), or a boy scout (Captain America), a proud warrior race guy (Thor), secret agent (Hawkeye) a dad trying to make ends meet (Ant-Man) etc. He's just a guy looking for a cure yet he still steps up to save the world.
Mordo is also great. I've heard he's a flat character in the comics but that is definitely not the case here. He's a mentor figure. He shows compassion but he has limits. He helps others and yet has some frightening inner demons. Even after he and Strange part ways in the end he is not a clear cut villain. There's plenty of room for an argument about him being an anti-villain. The plot of the movie is such that his What the Hell, Hero? towards Strange is both right and wrong at the same time.
Wong has a small role but it is still a meaningful one. He's this scary tough librarian and also a straight man. Yes, he's both of them.

The Ancient One is a classic mentor figure. It's very well done. She is a formidable sorcerer, a wise teacher and leader, she has gravitas but she is still human. She has plenty of her own flaws and mistakes.
Kaechilius is a multi-layered bad guy. He came to Kamar-Taj a broken man seeking power, much like Stephen Strange. He was welcome in, trained, and assisted in overcoming his tragedy. He did but in a way that made him a super villain instead of a super hero. However, he doesn't think of his plan as an Evil Plan and he has some basis for this. He wants everyone to be immortal so they don't experience the loss of family like he has. He makes quite a touching Motive Rant during a pause in his fight with Strange. There's a spoiler that grants him another layer.


If there is one thing everyone agrees on it is the amazing, mind bending, visuals. Inception has nothing on Doctor Strange.
Trickster Eric Novels gives Doctor Strange (2016 MCU) an A+

For the next movie review, Assassin's Creed, click the title.

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