Review: Doctor Strange

568ad0a32ead4Doctor Strange is the final superhero movie of 2016. (thank fuck) After a year of movies that ranged from bad to meh, let’s see how Marvel decided to end their year. Doctor Strange is set in the MCU, so you can expect him to appear alongside Iron Man, Spiderman, and maybe even the Guardians of the Galaxy. I’ll warn you before I get to spoilers.

This is an origin story, and a lot of it is similar to Iron Man’s origin. I mean that his super power is really his mind, and he just happens to use shiny things to be a full fledged hero.

This seemed like a short movie, and well paced, but at the same time, I think a lot of the movie was dedicated to helping people understand what was going on. This movie drowns in exposition. The problem is that Marvel has spent so much time introducing characters into a universe, and most of it seems pretty straight forward for a superhero movie. Medical serum, super suit, skill and training, etc. Now, all of the sudden, we have a character who magics all over the place, so they spend a lot of time explaining that it’s the doohickey that focuses your chi which allows you to do the thing.

A lot of the characters in this movie were there just to explain things. Mordo is a sort of guide and moral compass, though the movie hints at bigger things for him. The Ancient One is the teacher with a mysterious past. Wong is there because they needed an Asian. Dr. Palmer is there for the love interest and to be the everyperson who reacts to the things the way we would. Kaecilius is there to cause conflict.

On a semi related bit, there’s a running gag (which was in the trailer, so I’m not spoiling anything) about people mistaking Stephen Strange for a “mister” instead of “doctor”, with the punchline being “It’s Strange”, to which the person replies “maybe, but who am I to judge”. It’s a funny, and a variation of it is in the movie a few times. Here’s the thing. Stephen Strange is the least strange name in the movie.

Visually, this is a weird movie. Like, I imagine this movie must be amazing if you were on psychedelics. There are lots of colors, and lots of kaleidoscopes, and if you liked the moving buildings from Inception, holy fuck will you like this movie. If you’re expecting things blowing up, you’ll see a little bit of that, but that’s not the spectacle of the movie. Think less Michael Bay, and more shrooms.

One very distracting part that kind of ruined the movie for me, is that Michael Giacchino did the music. He’s good. I like his music. But he also did the music for the new Star Trek movies, and the music in this movie sounded so similar, that I kept expecting Spock to show up and explain how magic was not logical.

Spoilers Ahead

In almost all of these reviews, I’ve had a part where I said one of the female characters “don’t need no man”. It’s a running gag, that no one noticed. Here it actually fits. I want to see an entire movie just about the Ancient One. She is so bad ass in her few fight scenes. She’s calm and collected and confident. I think her back story, or just her day to day awesomeness would be a great movie.

Conversely, Dr. Palmer is there for the emotional aspect to the movie. She’s a good actor, and I think she wasn’t used very much in this movie. She gets a rough treatment here. It’s like her role in this movie was to show how Strange is a prick. Which she does, but that puts her in a victim position, and it never feels justified.

Doctor Strange is a cocky House…ish character who is smarter than everyone else. Then that’s taken away from him due to his own feelings of confidence, and now he’s got nothing left. So he stumbles into a far away land and learns some lessons on the way. You know the story.

Some nerds didn’t like how Mordo was a friend in this, since he’s a villain in the comics, but they did hint that it would happen. I think that’s cool, and I thought his character was pretty well fleshed out. The part that might end up confusing a lot of people in the future, is that in the comics, he’s a villain, but in this movie, he’s a very moral person. In fact, his main reason for leaving is that Doctor Strange cheated. Mordo is the good guy so far, not the bad guy. This isn’t like in Star Wars, where you slowly see Anakin turn to the dark side because his nookie died. I don’t see how they are going to transition him into a bad guy.

I didn’t really care about Wong. Like I feel like he only existed to be the non comedy character who would laugh at the end of the movie, which would cause the audience to laugh. He was the souffle humor of the movie. He was basically the Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy of this movie.

I don’t think enough time was spent on Kaecillius. From what I gathered, his goal was to die… to become immortal. He had lost a lot and so he wanted to lose it all… in order to gain… something? His point about how the Ancient One was hiding knowledge from people seemed like a valid complaint.

I liked the ghost fight, though I’m not sure how the ghosts could affect the “real” world. I guess it’s one of those things you just have to chalk up to “magic”, and go with it.

The cloak of levitation was the comedic star of the movie. Though, I think it kind of got a little too slapstick. I guess they needed that to offset the hours and hours of explaining. I’ve heard some people equate the cloak to the magic carpet from Aladdin.

The multiple dimensions aspect of the movie, is the basis for Doctor Strange lore, and so you need it for the character to make sense. The movie has a field day with it.

The end seemed kind of forced. There’s a time loop, but it isn’t really explained how Strange figured it out. There’s a brief scene where he changes an apple’s decomposition, and Mordo tells him not to do that, and sure enough that’s how they stop the bad guy. I kind of think that happened a lot in this movie. Strange sucks at something then a few minutes later, he’s the best at it. I generally hate when movies say “six months later”, but I think that would have helped this movie. If we could understand that Strange was practicing and learning magic for years. It could have been days, for all I could tell.

I’m glad the movie rushed through the stressor (the car accident), to get to the meat of the story (becoming a sorcerer). But they needed to spend a lot of time on the training stuff, because without it, most people would be lost. Sadly, this made the movie feel more like a prologue than it’s own movie. So I look forward to future movies, and judging by the mid credits scene, I think Doctor Strange will fit in nicely with the MCU, while still being somewhat distant. He may exist in the Avengers’ world, but is not part of the Avengers, which allows Marvel to make more movies without being repetitive. Doctor Strange opens up a whole new path of not only stories to tell, but also styles to use.

I’ll give this 4 out of 5 stars, because it wasn’t terrible, and it was entertaining, but there were some huge anchors slowing this movie down.

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