Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Movie Review: Doctor Strange

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Good acting and effects; story when it picks up in final third
Cons: A bit too mystic for me, and too much an origin story
The Bottom Line:
Strange introduction
Takes a while to get into
Marvel fans only

I Can’t Say They Didn’t Warn Me with the Title

Marvel has perfected their marketing.  Why do I say that?  Because the only reason I wanted to see Doctor Strange is because I knew it would be part of the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe.  If I didn’t see it, I would be lost when his character showed up in other movies.  Based on the previews, I couldn’t get a good grip on what it was all about, and it just looked…well, strange.  Turns out, there was a reason for that.

Our hero this time is Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a brilliant neurosurgeon who has an impressive success rate with his patients.  Of course, that is because he picks cases where he knows he can do something to help.  With his abilities has come a fame a wealth that has completely gone to his head.  All that changes when he has a horrible car accident that leaves his hands too damaged to do the work that made him famous.  Obsessed with regaining his former ability, he searches everywhere.

His search eventually leads him to a secret compound under the leadership of The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton).  What he hears at this compound sounds like nonsense to his scientific mind.  But is it?  Or is there something here that could heal him?  Might what he finds here lead him to an entire new world?

One strike against this movie is that it is an origin story.  Yes, for those of us who have never heard of the character before, we need the background.  But at the same time, we have heard this story before, including the character development.  Oh, the details may have changed, but the basic notes are the same.

While all the superhero movies have some kind of fantasy element to them, in this one it was stronger than most.  For some reason, that didn’t make it feel like a superhero movie since there was so much mysticism involved.  That could be a good or a bad thing, I guess, but for me it was a negative, and it took me a while to get into this part of the Marvel Universe.  I was on board by the end, and I fully realize this is on me.  If it weren’t a Marvel movie, I would have skipped it because these elements don’t appeal to me.

Or maybe it was just a combination of the two, because I found myself really getting into the film in the final third.  That’s when the background has finally been laid and we get to see Dr. Strange engaging in battle with the villain of the film.  Yes, we’ve seen the villain before, but only briefly.  We get most of his story via exposition, which was a little clunky, but given the slow pacing earlier, I think cutting to scenes with him would have slowed things down even more.

Visually, this movie is incredible.  Think Inception.  This is a movie that couldn’t have been made before computer graphics.  No, I don’t think that the effects took over and pushed out character and plot since they are used only to tell the story.  And they just look amazing.  I believed the twisted world they showed us, and I loved every second of them.

And the actors were wonderful.  They brought the right notes to the characters to make them come alive.

Honestly, I think the problem here is mostly superhero origin burnout.  That was confirmed to me while watching the two teaser scenes in the credits.  One sets up Doctor Strange being in the next Thor movie, and the other sets up the conflict for the next film to feature Strange.  Both of those scenes intrigued me, so I am definitely on board with this character now.

Still, I’m happy I waited to see Doctor Strange until it was out on Blu-ray.  If you are keeping up with the Marvel movies, you’ll definitely want to watch it, but it’s not a must see otherwise.

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