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Film Review

Doctor Strange

Directed by Scott Derrickson
From: Marvel
Released: 11.04.16
Review by Alex Bear | October 27, 2016 at 7:00 PM

After a horrific car accident, brilliant (and boy, does he know it) neurosurgeon Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) loses the use of his hands—and after Western medicine can’t help him mend his career-destroying injuries, he heads East, and learns the world actually doesn’t revolve around him. In fact, the Earth is just a small speck in one of infinite universes, full of knowledge and powers beyond even his comprehension. The group he meets in Kathmandu protect the planet against evil forces from other dimensions—and some from within.

Doctor Strange is your standard mega-blockbuster superhero setup: good vs. evil, selfish characters turning (semi) selfless for the greater good, and lots of explosive fight scene fun. So don’t get me wrong: it was a thoroughly enjoyable two hours. It’s a good solid Marvel production—which you can never really go wrong with for a night out (or in). But I can’t deny it’s highly problematic. So Marvel, if you’re reading this, please see the following and use your huge amounts of influence and power for the greater good, just like in your films:

The Good:

  • The cinematography was insane. You could see the endless hours of work that went into capturing a world that could be shifted at will, and it was beautiful. However, obligatory warning: do not watch while under the influence. The astral plane/other universe/time/space-bending parts will have you tripping harder than Strange when the Ancient One pushed his astral form out of his body. Also, where have we seen this cinematography before? Oh yeah, Inception. But it was incredible to watch.
  • Benedict Cumberbatch. Now I’m about to spout an unpopular opinion so, obligatory second warning: I’m not a huge fan of him. (Before you grab your pitchforks, read the rest of this point.) Suffice it to say, Cumberbatch had to work very hard to impress me. And he did. He was that good. He’s definitely Doctor Strange, just like Robert Downey Jr is Iron Man. No question about that after his performance.
  • The humor. It was well placed, well timed, and poked fun at Strange’s high opinion of himself. And Wong (amazingly played by an actor named Benedict Wong) is a hilarious yet stoic sidekick who offsets Strange’s personality brilliantly.

The Not-so-good:

  • The setting: They go to Asia and only run into one Asian character who manages to get more than one line in the movie? Like, really? It’s. Set. In. Asia. Nobody is going to get offended (or whatever ridiculous excuse these un-21st Century people use to get jumped up about the fact that non-white people exist), if they see Asian people in, y’know, ASIA. And if they do, please show them a map, then show them the door. Also, the Ancient One is around 500 years old? Were there white people in Nepal back then? But I digress…
  • The romance. Now, Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) was a glimpse of what could’ve been a fantastic character. And yet, her relationship with Strange felt forced and didn’t really add anything to the movie. Despite the hint at potential, their loveline didn’t quite fit in with everything else, and made her character feel like simply a plot device. Please give her a better storyline in Doctor Strange 2.
  • The bad guy wasn’t exactly believable either. There was no real development of a satisfying backstory for both Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) or his master Dormammu (also played by Benedict Cumberbatch, making him essentially fight himself)—the villains are always the more interesting characters, and yet despite the sheer infinite amount of dimensions in this movie, the bad guys were stuck in just the one.
  • The plot. While I can deal with yet another origin story *yawn* because at least this is a new character, it took over two thirds of the film to set the story up, and then the real grit of the movie happened in the last ten minutes. I’d have liked to have seen Doctor Strange use his newfound powers more—but hopefully this will be ramped up in the sequel.

In the end: Like I said, it’s an enjoyable watch. But it’s also really tiring to see your favorite imprints miss the mark in things they really, really should be nailing in 2016. Marvel, you’re one of the world players in entertainment, so please set the example for the rest of the industry; be the heroes your films portray.

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