Short Attention Span Review™
Doctor Strange returns the Marvel Universe back to more personal storytelling. In it we are presented with the origin story of the ego-maniacal genius Dr. Stephen Strange and his journey to find and redefine himself in a mysterious new world. Imbued with mind twisting special effects, Doctor Strange is one of the better and more refreshing Marvel offerings in what is becoming a glut of such films.
Neal SaysI remember watching 1978’s television version of Dr. Strange . . . the 2016 Doctor Strange diverges massively from that disco influenced mess (I know you like disco Amy!). But I remember very little about it other than it being awful, even at the height of comic/superhero based shows being produced in the 70s (Hulk, Wonder Woman, The Amazing Spiderman, Captain America, Shazam!, Man from Atlantis, Secrets of Isis, and to some extent The Six Million Dollar Man) . . . so awful in fact, that Dr. Strange wasn’t picked up as a series even though the likes of Shazam! and Secrets of Isis were!
Enough about the old, let’s talk about the new. It should come as no surprise that the new Doctor Strange is superior in every way, to the point that it is now probably my second favorite comic/superhero based movie, right behind Guardians of the Galaxy. Why? Well, it feels different than other superhero movies; it feels more personal (at least in this first movie). It hasn’t yet been diluted by an ensemble cast of umpteen other superheros all showing up on the same screen, jockeying for attention, and bouncing off each other’s egos. This is a story about Stephen Strange, his ego, his failings, his demons, and overcoming all of those while saving the world with his new found talents and genius.
Amy SaysDr. Stephen Strange’s adventures begin with an act of sheer stupidity. So, let’s just put this out there . . . don’t drive like an idiot . . . excessive speed and cell phones don’t mix. In fact, just put your phone away while driving! Okay, I’m getting off my soap box and back to the movie.
As the closing credits started to roll, I thought, “This was my favorite Marvel movie!” Then Neal reminded me of Guardians of the Galaxy, and I realized that I liked that movie much better. Not only did Guardians of the Galaxy have more humor, I was infinitely more attached to the characters. I didn’t really develop an emotional connection with the characters in Doctor Strange.
I guess the closest I came was with Rachel McAdams’ Christine Palmer, an ER doctor that puts up with a lot of emotional crap from Dr. Strange. She still loves him but knows when to walk away for her own self-preservation. Even when he comes back into her life, she is there for him personally and professionally, but she understands when he needs to leave again. She also seriously works well under pressure!
So, then, why did I like this movie so much? I agree with you, Neal, the story feels personal and believable…strange as that may sound. See what I did there?!
Yes, the film is full of familiar superhero tropes (egomaniac and/or genius and/or billionaire is stricken by personal tragedy only to have to rediscover himself while coming to grips with the responsibility of new powers), but Benedict Cumberbatch portrays Doctor Strange perfectly. Tilda Swinton, aside from looking completely natural totally bald, portrays The Ancient One (representing “Supernatural Aid” in Cambell’s Heroes Journey) who guides Strange through his trials.
I was initially critical of the special effects when viewed in the trailers, likening them to the dream effects in Inception. While there are some similarities in one sequence, the multiverses of Doctor Strange are more of a colorful kaleidoscope of worlds/visual that are both dizzying and bewildering. I truly felt I was embedded in a secret world where, as the viewer, the curtain of the real world was pulled aside for a short time for me to glean a peak.
If you want to get lost in a strange world full of action and some perfectly placed humor . . . I recommend you check out Doctor Strange.
So Amy, when do I get a Lamborghini Huracán Coupé like Doctor Strange?!
What I like best about Doctor Strange is that, when things seem hopeless, a change in attitude can change your world (“Open your mind. Change your reality.”). The Ancient One tells Strange to let go of his old beliefs and get out of his own way so that he can explore his full potential. When he is finally able to do this, his magical powers grow. The Ancient One understands the untapped power of our minds. We may not be able to bend time, but there is magic out there if only we choose to believe.
Like in the Harry Potter series where the wand chooses the wizard, the relic chooses the sorcerer in Doctor Strange. I enjoyed the scene where the Cloak of Levitation picked Strange and instantly started protecting him from Kaecillius and his zealots. The cloak becomes a character in the story and provides some comic relief.
Definitely see this one in the theater for visual effects and fantastic performances. Be sure to stay until the end of both sets of credits to see little sneak peeks at the next two movies.
P.S. No, Neal, you will never get a Lamborghini . . . repeat after me, “I will not drive like an idiot!”