Doctor Strange is the palate cleanser Marvel needed
Title: Doctor Strange
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen and Tilda Swinton
Release Date: November 4th, 2016
Review By: Jeffrey Schimmer
“You’re a man looking at the world through a keyhole. You’ve spent your life trying to widen it.” The Ancient One tells a desperate Dr. Strange. As a fan of the superhero film, it has sometimes felt like that for the genre. They can get formulaic, predictable and at worst boring. Dr. Strange may not shed the first two charges, but it certainly escapes the latter. The cinematography and visual effects adds a fresh element to recharge the MCU.
Doctor Stephen Strange is one of the top neurosurgeons in the world. The best according him. All the awards in his living room trophy case would support his argument. It all comes crashing down when he crashes his Lamborghini off a cliff. Surgery on his hands could not prevent permanent nerve damage. When all medical options fails, Strange resorts to more mystical methods of treatment. This journey leads him to Kamar-Taj and The Ancient One.
Many of Marvel’s cornerstones are present. A tight script leads to a tightly edited film. There are few excess shots and no scene is wasted. A closeup of an apple foreshadows its use later in the scene. The humor is also dished out to counter the notes that are redundant to superhero origin stories. When Strange first meets the Ancient One, the scene is humorous instead of somber. This is helped by the flawless casting choices. Benedict Cumberbatch is the Doctor Strange we deserve. Chiwetel Ejiofor brings depth to Mordo. Mads Mikkelsen, one of the premier antagonist character actors, gives us an imposing Kaecilius. And while you may have reservations about Tilda Swinton playing The Ancient One (The Ancient One is an Asian man in the comics), she has always had an ethereal aura perfect for this role.
The character traits of Stephen Strange align with Tony Stark. Both are egocentric, with their arrogance causing them great physical harm. This harm leads to self-discovery and the ability to save lives. Doctor Strange is able to deviate enough. We get introduced to a mentor figure that isn’t part of the Iron Man storyline. It’s this dynamic that the film begins to flourish. The world building has the excitement of Hogwarts, with infinite possibilities. Real-life mysticism is incorporated and adds a fun layer. Things like the mind being more powerful than the body play a philosophical and practical role in the film.
One of the infinite possibilities is to warp space, creating stunning visuals reminiscent of Inception. Even if you are not a fan of superhero movies, this film is worth going to for these scenes alone. It is one of the more unique and stunning visuals I have seen in a long time. Better than Inception, better than Interstellar, on par with Avatar in terms of 3D. Seeing a hallway expand beyond the normal limits of physics or a city fold in on itself, becoming floating blocks of brick and steel was just fantastic. (However, those who get motion sickness should avoid 3D.)
Final Thoughts: Doctor Strange takes its rightful place in the pantheon of superhero films. It may not have the most original story, but it’s a serious testament to visual storytelling.
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