Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Movie Review: "Doctor Strange"

Marvel continues its hit streak with Doctor Strange, the most peculiar movie to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Guardians of the Galaxy.  As far as superheroes go, Doctor Strange is easily one of the more obscure.  While many diehard comic book fans know who Doctor Strange is, the average person doesn't and that was clearly going to be the biggest hurdle for this movie to overcome.  As a fanboy who never really read much Doctor Strange, I went into this movie without any preconceived notions of what to expect and was more than satisfied.  I believe others who know nothing about Doctor Strange will be as well.

The titular Doctor Strange is a world famous neurosurgeon named Stephen Strange.  He is arrogant and exceptionally good at what he does, however when he injures his hands in a car wreck, he can no longer do his job.  Strange starts searching the world for a cure, eventually meeting the Ancient One, a sorcerer who trains him in the mystic arts.  Throughout the course of Strange's training, he discovers a new purpose for his life and realizes that there are larger things at play in the universe than just himself, placing him upon a path to safeguard Earth from supernatural threats.

The greatest thing about Doctor Strange is how mindblowingly original it is.  The action in this movie is not merely two super powered dudes slugging it out, it's not even two wizards casting spells at one another, this is sorcerers warping the realities of time and space with magic.  Streets fold in on themselves, portals to other dimensions are opened, and time is manipulated routinely throughout the movie.  Then there is arguably the coolest fight sequence of the year when Doctor Strange's astral form does ghost battle with a bad guy's astral form.

Director Scott Derrickson and his screenwriting partners, Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill, deserve huge kudos for being able to think outside the box.  Doctor Strange goes beyond most of the action movie norms to craft action that occasionally has shades of other movies, but cranks it all up to eleven.  Of course the biggest kudos should go to Marvel Studios' president and Doctor Strange producer, Kevin Feige.  Doctor Strange has long been a passion project for Feige.  He saw something in the comic book adventures that many others throughout the years didn't and his determination pays off for the audience.

When you really get right down to it, Doctor Strange is another base hit for Marvel Studios, if not completely a home run due to the usual trappings of superhero origin stories and being part of an interconnected universe of movies.  If Sherlock didn't already make Benedict Cumberbatch a mega star, his work as Doctor Strange will.  In a great many ways, Cumberbatch almost brings more cheek than Tony Stark, with a little more likability to boot.  Then there is Rachel McAdams who is likable as the obligatory love interest, Dr. Christine Palmer.  While McAdams essentially plays a role we've seen her do many times over in other movies, she helps further ground Strange's humanity.  Rounding out the cast are the likes of Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Baron Mordo, Benedict Wong as Wong, and Madds Mikkelsen as the bad guy, Kaecilius.  All play their parts well and further ground the absurdity through their acting.

All in all, Doctor Strange is a fun time at the movies.  The movie takes itself seriously enough to make it seem like the stakes matter, and yet it has the good, winking sense of humor of the first two Iron Man movies and Ant-Man to keep the movie feeling light.  When you really get right down to it, that is what people have come to expect from Marvel Studios and they continue to deliver on that promise with each subsequent movie, and Doctor Strange is no exception.

I give Doctor Strange a 9 out of 10!

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