Doctor Strange (2016) Review: Just Weird Enough
8 years ago Robert Downey Jr. strapped on a high tech red and gold suit and introduced the world to Iron Man. Now, 13 films later, Doctor Strange gives us a movie that continues to expand a universe, that already has gods, aliens, alien gods, and a civil war. Clearly, the heads of Marvel Studios are pushing as much onto audiences until they say when, as Doctor Strange seeks to bring magic & mysticism to the world of the Avengers. You might’ve thought magic was introduced in the Thor films, but you’d be wrong. Sort of.
Despite such a diverse array of genres, perhaps the biggest criticism of marvel films is they feel quite similar. Seen one seen them all, with the origin story formula displayed in ‘Iron Man’ applied ad nauseum to films like ‘Ant-Man’ and ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’. I’m of a mind that says if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Plus, similarities among the films could be seen as shameless copying, or thoughtful parallel. It all depends on your mood really.
For all that ‘Doctor Strange has in common with the films that preceded it, I found some aspects of it to be refreshing. The story follows Doctor Stephen Strange, a genius surgeon displaying a familiar brand of arrogance. After a car accident leaves his hands unable to be remedied by the medicine he so covets, he travels east to seek the wisdom of The Ancient One. However, instead of a simple patch job, Strange is brought the secrets of the multiverse, provided he can see past his own ego, which happens to be pretty big, at least bigger than the average guys ego.
That idea of submitting oneself to a greater purpose is at the core of many superhero films. I find that it isn’t always done particularly well. Filmmakers tend to take for granted the fact that you probably know how the story will end, and don’t bother to flesh it out. Opting instead for zany one liners, that are ultimately forgettable. This film however, feels authentic because of the reverence it shows the story. The pacing is solid. You follow Strange in his struggles to look beyond himself, and you feel his arc develop.
Many times the film will take you on a journey, showing things that defy our concept of reality. It’s far and away one of the most visually interesting films out this year, with a world filled with new concepts that I left the film convinced of, thanks to the compelling visuals. Visuals that help give a version of action magic, different from what’s been seen in films like Harry Potter. A word to the wise to the perpetually inebriated: I’m not saying Doctor Strange is better if you’re gone, but I’m not saying it will hurt. Or maybe it will. Further testing is needed.
Benedict Cumberbatch plays Stephen Strange with pathos for the somber moments, and provides a wide range of dynamic emotions. Maybe it’s because he’s British, playing an american doctor, whose injuries increase his arrogance, but I found a lot of Strange’s mannerisms reminded me of what Hugh Laurie did with House. It’s not like they’re dissimilar characters. Both have a playful, charming sarcasm and revel in mocking other peoples intelligence. I kept waiting for Strange to say “Everybody lies” and start sporting a limp.For such a new and vibrant world, Doctor Strange never feels bogged down with details. Instead, it opts for blink and you miss it details that are meant to pique your curiosity, quite in the same way for Strange himself. The movie should also be commended for being one that doesn’t rely on the tired trope of a maguffin. There are countless relics and artifacts that could’ve served such a purpose, but the movie invokes stakes without the need for such cheap parlor tricks. This is real movie magic people.
Actors like Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Tilda Swinton elevate the film, with their particular brand of refined extravagance, even if the latter’s ethnicity feels out of place to say the least. I’d highly recommend ‘Doctor Strange’, as a movie that decided to care about what it was trying to be, when so many movies don’t.
Rating: Big Screen Watch