Doctor Strange (2016)

Oh, how long have I waited for this day. The day when Doctor Strange finally comes into the sights of people who aren’t well-versed in the world of comic books.

Ever since that one rainy Summer day, when I first found out about the good Doctor (hue), I’ve had quite the hankering for a live-action movie. I haven’t read Doctor Strange comics before nor have I gone through his wiki. The only exposure I have had to him was that animated movie that was released way back in 2007. I’d gotten the disc from… somewhere, I guess. I don’t really know. It just appeared magically one day in my PlayStation 2’s disc folder. What I do know is that by the end of the hour and half feature, Doctor Stephen Strange had become my favorite Marvel character.

Doctor Stephen is your typical medical professional who starts out with wanting to help people but ends up making money and status his top priority. One night, he gets involved in an accident and his arms get smashed to bits. After trying out and blowing most of his money on experimental medical treatments and getting nowhere, he hears of someone completely healing and decides to track him down. He gets wind of a place called Kamar-Taj and heads there – only to be met with a world full of unimaginable possibilities.

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No, this is not Hellraiser.

The story follows the classic ‘origins’ pattern. Light beginning with a tragic event followed by some melodrama only to come back to lighter moments again to end with a bang (or lack thereof – this is a good thing). The only difference is that this time instead of a muscular no-holds barred explosions-filled action flick, what you get is a pretty great take on whimsy and wit.

The dialogue is clever and funny. Many times in the theater people were laughing out loud mostly due to Stephen Strange’s quips. One scene in particular stands out in which Kaecilius, the supporting villain, and Stephen meet for the first time:

Kaecilius: And how long have you been a sorceror? Mister?
Stephen: Doctor.Kaecilius: Mister… Doctor?
Stephen: Stephen.
Kaecilius: Hmmm, maybe.

The dialogue can also be somewhat heavy at times. The scene with the Ancient One, Stephen’s master, has quite the quotable lines. As does the black and white scenario presented by the interaction between Stephen and Kaecilius in regards to time and immortality.

Other than Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange, I was very skeptical about most of the cast. Good thing my thoughts were proven wrong, though. Anyone who’s seen the past works of Cumberbatch knows that he is capable of playing a wide variety of roles with ease and that only he would make a perfect Doctor.

I was on the fence about Baron Mordo, Stephen’s ‘partner’, being black but Chiwetel Ejiofor pulls off the role quite well. Kudos to him. I thought the same about the Ancient One being a woman since her character was an old Asian man in the comics and animated movie. Thankfully, she couldn’t have portrayed the character better and I’m happy to say the her acting was quite superb. Tilda Swinton really knows what she is doing as an actress. Kaecilius is vastly different from his comics counterpart. He’s basically cannon fodder: a means to introduce the bigger baddie of the movie called Dormammu. At least Mads Mikkelsen tries his hardest to give his character a believable performance. And, he succeeds!

As great as the movie was for me in terms of plot, it did fall short in a number of places. Firstly, for me, it would have been better if some more time had been devoted to showing Stephen’s spiritual training. It literally feels like one moment he’s a total newbie and the next he’s suddenly sorcerer extraordinaire.

Another problem is the last scene with the main villain. I’m not saying it was a bad scene: it was actually damn brilliant. It went for outwitting Dormammu instead of the usual Marvel Cinematic Universe’s beat-em-up strategy. The issue with that scene was that it doesn’t really explain all of the thing’s going into it that make it so great. This in turn causes the viewers who aren’t fans of Thinking(TM) to call the overall movie bad or ‘2DEEPfryME’.

The biggest, and only, disappointment of the movie was that it tries to showcase an identity crisis and a case of black and white morality but it never really explores them as much as it should have. It’s a Doctor Strange movie. Come on. Not only the visuals have to mess you up but the dialogue has to as well. The movie would have been far greater if it wasn’t made for a PG-13 audience with subtle leanings toward adults. Oh well, Disney has to keep itself clean somehow.

Speaking of visuals, do NOT attempt to watch the movie while being under the influence of drugs. You WILL regret it. Especially that visual mental orgasm of a ride Stephen goes through which the Ancient One makes him go through in order to convince him of the sorcerers and magic. Spectacular VFX and creative cinematography make not watching Doctor Strange in glorious 3D a mistake. A capital offense, if I may be so bold.

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So bold.

The soundtrack was pretty simple, I have to say. Nothing special that caught my ears but the cymbal and violin heavy music suit the movie well. Then again, to be fair, I’m half deaf and watching the movie in a cinema means that I couldn’t really pick up the music well enough.

To end this review, I would have to say that had Doctor Strange been a movie made for mature audiences then it would have possibly been Marvel’s best movie yet. But the few problems with the plot, the villains being rather dry, and the impact-less soundtrack prevent the movie from being so. I rate it an 8.5/10. It’s in the top 5 of my favorite Marvel movies (Iron Man, Deadpool, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Spiderman 1/2).

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