A romp into Marvel’s newest movie: Dr Strange
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I love the Marvel movies. I’m the guy who read all the comics growing up (Hell, I still read them now). I watched all the cartoons and when the first marvel X-Men came out years ago, it was my heaven on earth. In other words, I’m biased. However, Dr. Strange is truly another great entry in the line of Marvel blockbusters, though not a perfect one.
The story is about Dr. Stephen Strange (played with an impeccable American accent by Benedict Cumberbatch), a surgeon in New York City with a perfect record in the operating room (since he only takes cases he knows will end favorably).
He appears to be a man who has it all: wealth, good looks, well-regarded in the surgeon community and an on-again, off-again fling with Christine Palmer (played by Rachel McAdams), a nurse in the hospital.
Until one night, he drives off a cliff and wakes up a quadriplegic and unable to practice surgery. Strange tries everything, but nothing works. Then he learns of a man who completely recovered from an injury similar to his own. This man tells Dr. Strange that the answers he seeks are in Nepal.
The thing that impresses me most about Marvel movies is how they take a story we’ve seen over and over again (there’s a guy, something happens to him, he gets a superpower, something bad happens, he saves the day and a girl is in there somewhere) and still make it feel fresh and original.
One of the big ways the movie achieves this is through its visual aspects. There are two scenes in the movie where characters are fighting each other throughout a mystical maze in New York City. I won’t do the scenes justice, so I won’t try. But, rest assured, those CGI wonders are a feast for the eyes and are like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
The acting also breathes life into the familiar story. Cumberbatch shines as the egotistical doctor searching frantically for a path to healing. His journey through the mystical arts, though at times rushed, never feels false thanks to Cumberbatch’s versatility. Tilda Swinton plays the Ancient One and despite the negative press on “whitewashing,” I still thought it was cool to see a woman, even if she wasn’t Asian, be the elder and master over a sea of men.
The Oscar-nominated Chiwetel Ejiofor plays an interesting but familiar Mordo—a loyal student of the Ancient One— and was, at least for me, a welcome departure from the comics. Benedict Wong plays Wong. (LOL) Of all the Asian actors traversing Hollywood how ironic is it that the guy who gets hired has the same last name as the character he plays? He shares, along with Benedict Cumberbatch, many of films funniest moments.
The movie’s faults mostly fall on the writers. Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill did a decent job of putting a fresh coat of paint on a familiar canvas, but some problems persisted. Rachel McAdams’ character felt pointless and while it’s obvious she’s the love interest (when has McAdams played anything else? Okay, she did play a reporter on “Spotlight”) more depth was clearly needed, but left out simply because she was only supposed to play the love interest and nothing more.
Mads Mikkelsen is especially disappointing in the role of Kaecilius, as he is so talented (Hannibal, anybody?) but is unable to bring anything interesting or compelling to the movie’s antagonist because his character also feels severely underdeveloped.
And, like I said earlier, the movie feels rushed. Dr. Strange goes from a quadriplegic, egotistic maniac to a humble, powerful practitioner of the mystic arts pretty damn fast. (and that’s not a spoiler that fact is visible in the movie poster.) The humor often finds its mark, though misses it several painfully obvious times and makes you scratch your head wondering what the hell the writers and director were thinking.
But overall, the movie is a fun romp through a new aspect of the Marvel universe, with arresting visuals, mostly fascinating performances and an exciting story. See it, just don’t expect anything groundbreaking.