I just got home from Doctor Strange! I’m just gonna jump straight into it.
Doctor Strange (2016) Dir. Scott Derrickson Writ. Jon Spaihts, C. Robert Cargill Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton Rated PG-13 115 mins. Action, Fantasy, Marvel IMDB 8.0
I honestly have to say this movie was very different from most Marvel movies and that was a very good thing. It was also more fulfilling of a watch than a lot of Marvel movies have been, actually. To be an MCU film, this movie had a much different feels, and I think that can probably be related to the fact that the director, Scott Derrickson, has only ever directed horror films before, according to the internet. This movie just had a very different vibe that I found very enjoyable.
Doctor Strange is about… well, Doctor Strange. That is, Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a famed and world renown neurosurgeon. On his way to a conference, Strange drives his car off a cliff and, in the crash, his hands are shattered and his life as a surgeon is over. He has every treatment known to mankind and still his hands cannot be fixed, so he starts to seek out mystical healing. That path leads him to Kamar-Taj in Katmandu, Nepal, and the enlightened path of a woman known only as The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). Working alongside Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Wong (Benedict Wong), Strange learns the arts of sorcery with great proficiency. When the zealot, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) returns to take care of all of the sorcerers and allow the Dark Lord Dormammu to consume the world into his Dark Dimension and grant Kaecilius and his followers eternal life.
This movie was one that I went into without a lot of enthusiasm and some actual trepidation. The previews made this movie just seem so over-the-top “out there” and I was worried I wouldn’t like that. However, after all the reviews started coming in that it was good, I got a little more excited. And I have to say, I’m glad I didn’t read any of the reviews, because I went into it without expectations and was very pleased with the movie I ended up seeing. I had always thought this movie was full of great actors, but I didn’t expect for them to be entirely unhindered by a very weird plot. They all did very well and I was pleasantly surprised by that.
This movie, as I mentioned earlier, had a very different feel or vibe than most MCU films do, and I really think that was what made it good. To start with, our protagonist is wholly unlikable for the most part. He isn’t charmingly assholish like Tony Stark, he’s flat out a dick. We meet him as this smug, pompous, arrogant surgeon who seems entirely full of himself and convinced that he’s God’s gift. And then when he crashes his car and his hands are destroyed, rather than be humbled by it during his recovery like we would expect, he’s still a big ol’ dick about it. He obsessively fixates on how the world will be worse off without his gifted hands (not to be confused with Gifted Hands, the story of neurosurgeon and narcoleptic former presidential candidate Ben Carson). He even pushes away his former girlfriend Christine (Rachel McAdams) in a very cruel and deplorable manner that makes us dislike him even more. When it actually comes to him seeking help, he’s still very arrogant about his abilities along the way, and we honestly don’t begin to like him as much as we begrudgingly enjoy his abilities becoming worthy of his ego. He is only likeable when he finally has a turn and starts to be a decent human being a solid 2/3rds into the movie.
Where that would normally be a bad thing, in this movie it works really well. We don’t love him as a person like we do Steve Rogers or Tony Stark in their movies, we appreciate his value in the fight against the dark forces coming for the rest of the world. We like that he’s able to take on the big bad coming his way and we like him as a shield against evil more than as a hero. It works because this movie doesn’t really give us solid ‘good vs bad’ and not even the ‘gray area good vs gray area bad’, it’s more like apposing forces that you don’t really KNOW the true ‘good guy’ or ‘bad guy’ label behind. Whereas most of the time we want to love our good guys and hate our bad guys, in this movie we want the ones that are pro-don’t-destroy-the-universe to beat the one’s who are pro-destroy-everything. We care more about the fate of the world than the fate of our characters.
I know, I know, if you haven’t seen the movie you’re probably going, ‘well Chelsea, that’s not how film making works’ but I’m telling you, it really does work this time.
Cinematically, this movie is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I said to my siblings that I’m SO glad we didn’t go see this movie in 3D because it was trippy enough without all this crazy kaleidoscopic, acid trip shit going down on a Z axis as well. Beyond the crazy folding and bending and distorting of every surface in the world, and the strange laser-tag-neon mole-spore microscope image Dark Dimension, this movie had some stunning visuals elsewhere. The way the sorcery moved like a sparkler or like molten metal was just so interesting. I also just loved the settings. I don’t usually talk about the mise-en-scene, but unlike a lot of movies where the various places where they go don’t seem real, I felt like I really bought the big library and the strange ‘books strung up in chains’ stuff. It was a very interesting room. I also liked the outdoor space where they trained. It felt like a real place. Not to mention the Sanctums, such as the New York Sanctum seeming like it could easily be a real museum. I know it’s odd to have that stand out, but I just really bought it in a way a lot movies have areas that you don’t really buy into.
The acting performances were also pretty good. I mean, I didn’t expect any different really, given that we have a whole cast of powerhouse actors, but it was a solid film as far as acting goes. Everyone knows I absolutely ADORE Benedict Cumberbatch and I love Tilda Swinton with the fire of a thousand suns, and while Cumberbatch’s American accent wasn’t the BEST I’ve heard, overall it was a solid performance. Tilda Swinton’s character was really complex and I never really decided if I thought she was a good guy or a bad guy, which I think was the point of her, and she delivered that very nicely. Mads Mikkelsen was probably a standout I didn’t expect. I love him, LOOOOOVE him, but I just didn’t expect for what I thought would be a typical bad guy to actually have some depth to him, and he did well with that. Another performance I was really surprised with was Chiwetel Ejiofor. I’ve only ever seen him in The Martian, and he was good in that movie but it wasn’t that complex of a role. Mordo here was really a pretty solid character and he did a great job with it.
The movie didn’t have the emotional connection that a lot of Marvel films have, but after Civil War failed miserably in that department anyways, at least this movie didn’t TRY to forge depths that it couldn’t reach the way that one did, so I’m not too bothered by that. There wasn’t a lot of humor in this one, but what was there was enough to make the whole auditorium chuckle, so it did its job. The music in this movie was fantastic (and no, I don’t just mean Wong listening to Beyonce, though that was funny). It was very different to anything I can think of, so it really stood out to me.
All in all, I have to say, while this movie was very different to most MCU films before it, I really liked it. There are so many things that I don’t think would work in other movies as well, such as the lack of emotional connection to the characters, but for this movie it does. I definitely recommend everybody go see it. It won’t be anybody’s favorite MCU movie, but it’s a solid film that delivers in both action and story. AND DON’T FORGET TO STAY FOR BOTH THE MID AND AFTER CREDIT SCENES!!!
My Rating: 7/10