The INSIDER Summary:
• “Doctor Strange” is Marvel’s trippiest and biggest visual feat to date.
• If you see the film, see it on the biggest screen possible, and in 3D.
• It’s a little fast-paced and formulaic. Strange appears to become a master of the Mystic Arts a little too conveniently.
From the moment “Doctor Strange” begins, you’re propelled into an immersive, trippy, kaleidoscope spectacle.
The film feels like it’s a series of M.C. Escher drawings brought to life as it dives into the mystical world of Marvel’s magical arts.
If you were puzzled by the dream-building of worlds in Christopher Nolan’s 2010 film, “Inception,” you’ll be spellbound by the cities folding in within themselves in “Strange,” and rightfully so.
If you’ve read any of the original “Doctor Strange” comics from the late ’60s, they too take you on a hallucinogenic and trippy ride. It’s one that director Scott Derrickson (“The Exorcism of Emily Rose”) wanted to bring to life and succeeded ten-fold in doing on the big screen using real-life inspiration from coral, collapsed buildings, desert landscapes, and more.
There’s no question that the visuals will bowl you over. In fact, they’re such scene stealers that they may deter you from what’s actually going on in a given scene at any time.
For instance, you’ll be too busy staring at walls becoming floors, spinning around in ways they shouldn’t be, that you may forget that Tilda Swinton is having an important conversation with Mads Mikkelsen, the film’s antagonist, Kaecilius. You’ll wish you could go back and rewind the film’s opening sequence to relisten to their conversation, but also to witness London dissolving into their own magical playground of confounding perplexities.
That London scene is just the start of a wild thrill ride. The film also transforms and distorts New York City and Hong Kong while taking fans to other unearthly dimensions of the cosmos and Marvel multiverse.
The film itself follows Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Stephen Strange, an egotistical and brilliant neurosurgeon who injures his prized hands beyond use in a car crash.
He spends every last dollar of his vast fortune trying to mend his broken hands to return to his life as a surgeon. In his travels, he finds himself in Nepal seeking out the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) who introduces him to the world of the Mystic Arts and to several alternate dimensions co-existing within our own.
Those who master the arts protect the world against mystical threats, unlike the Avengers who protect the Earth from physical dangers.
If this was one of the first movies made in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I think “Strange” would have been a tough sell. 14 movies in, and after 2014’s successful “Guardians of the Galaxy,” this seems like the next logical step to take in the ever-expanding Marvel universe.
Fans of Cumberbatch will eat up every moment the “Sherlock” actor is on screen. The actor, who makes a dead ringer for the comic-book hero, has earned quite the reputation online as the internet’s boyfriend over the past few years. According to Marvel, the studio couldn’t even film in Nepal without a crowd chanting his name. I await the many memes and GIFs to come out of this movie.
One moment in particular between Cumberbatch’s Strange and Mikkelsen’s Kaecilius is sure to become a fan favourite. Mikkelsen is best known for his role in NBC’s “Hannibal,” which has gained it’s own massive online following. A scene between the two, which can be seen in one of the film’s many TV spots, appears to nod at Mikkelsen’s previous role.
It’s a perfect wink toward the fandoms and one can only imagine that Marvel knows exactly what it’s doing. (You can currently see the clip here.)
It’s also refreshing to see Rachel McAdam’s character Christine Palmer isn’t being reduced to a simple love interest. There are romantic sparks between the two and Strange is clearly pining after this woman throughout parts of the film; however, their relationship is not strictly romantic.
Given how Marvel has recently written out other love interests (see Gwyneth Paltrow in the “Iron Man” and “Avengers” series and Natalie Portman in the “Thor” films) quite flimsily, it would be a waste to see talent like McAdams be discarded when it’s time for all of the heroes to get together and save the world in the next big “Avengers” film years down the road.
Palmer, however, appears as if she could become as intricate and central to the marvel Cinematic Universe as actress Rosario Dawson has become to Netflix’s Marvel series.
The most unexpected joy of the film is a humorous relationship between Strange and his cape, the Cloak of Levitation. Reminiscent of the relationship between Aladdin and his magic carpet in the animated movie, it’s sure to be one that fans will latch onto.
As entrancing as the film is, “Doctor Strange” ultimately feels like an entry-level beginner’s guide to the character. Maybe that’s the point for such an obscure character, but there isn’t much more that you learn about Strange that you don’t learn in the film’s trailers. I could probably sum up most of what you need to know about Strange in a few short sentences.
The point was to probably introduce one of Marvel’s strangest (no pun intended) characters to the big screen in the most digestible way possible for general audiences, but as someone who has read some of the older comics from the ’60s, I felt like I didn’t learn too much more about the character.
And, that’s fine. Still, not all of the film’s awesome visuals can distract you from a few holes.
“Strange” feels a bit rushed and formulaic in the set up of how Strange goes from being a neurotic surgeon to a slightly cocky superhero. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, but it’s easy to be reminded how each of Marvel’s movies are pieces in a larger moving puzzle. There are definitely scenes from the trailers that have been cut down or out from the final film.
For example, Strange appears to go from being a mere student to a genius in the Mystic Arts in a matter of minutes. (Hours?)
I know he’s been studying at the temple in Kamar-Taj, but one minute he’s practicing alongside the Ancient One and Mordo and being reprimanded for breaking rules and the next he’s kind of in charge of everything. How does that work? Wouldn’t someone else have been in charge? It seems like he was conveniently made the “chosen one” without suffering any real repercussions for his actions. At points in the film different magical items just flock to him. It seems like a lot of luck for some man who was very arrogant and egotistical to begin with.
And how exactly does all the magic work? Yes, yes. I know we hear about the Mystic Arts, but it just seems like Strange reads a bunch of books (à la “Harry Potter”) and becomes a grand wizard through insane memorization and his photographic memory.
Since you’ll probably be so wound up in the spectacle of it all, you might leave the theatre quite satisfied without thinking about the movie’s finer details until much later or upon a second viewing.
Ultimately, after a year with some disappointing superhero movies, “Doctor Strange” was a welcome and refreshing experience.
Just like “Guardians,” Marvel has taken another obscure comic hero and has translated his story onto the big screen in a way that stands out among a seemingly expanding list of never-ending superhero adaptations.
It’s nice to know that comic fans can at least rely on Marvel to make a capable and enjoyable superhero film which won’t let you down.
And if you head out to see “Doctor Strange,” make sure to see it on the biggest screen possible, and in 3D. While it’s not necessary in scenes where surgery is being performed, it truly works in the film’s many visually trippy sequences. It would be a disservice to see those in 2D.
“Doctor Strange” is in theatres November 4.
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