Friday, November 11, 2016

Movie Review: Doctor Strange (2016)

Doctor Strange (2016) co-written and directed by Scott Derrickson

Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a hot-shot neurosurgeon at the top of his game. He takes high-profile and high-challenge surgeries for the glory and the money. His skills and photographic memory are unmatched. Unfortunately, he's also full of himself, so much so that he disrespects his fellow surgeons and won't bother with ER emergencies. A car accident severely damages his hands. All his attempts at a Western medical solution fail to restore his physical abilities so he turn East in desperation. He is drawn into a world of mystical arts and abilities, where he is trained by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) in hopes he will join their forces and protect the Earth from multi-dimensional and mystical threats.

Superficially, the story is a carbon copy of Tony Stark's character arc--the cocky but competent loner who is humbled into seeing the world differently, learns to work with others, and sacrifices himself for the greater good. Even so, Strange is his own person and Benedict Cumberbatch gives both charm and honesty to the character, making him a compelling hero who must overcome his flaws (one of them being his self-unawareness).

Cumberbatch also has the comedic ability to match the tone of the Marvel films. The film's lightness buoys the viewer through the tougher parts. The theme of accepting your situation is mostly tied to Strange's hands, which shake visibly after his accident. He is determined to undo the damage done to him so he can return to his normal, comfortable existence. Learning to accept how things are and that new possibilities could be even better is a long process for him. He is able to work through some issues and come to a much better place by the end of the movie. Other characters also struggle with this issue, giving a well-rounded feel.

Visually, this is by far the most impressive film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When Strange enters into other dimensions of reality, the special effects are beautiful and breath-taking--as amazing as the visuals in Avatar. The movie includes the city-bending from Inception and the energy whips from Iron Man 2, but raise both to a new level. Plenty of other amazing effects are included. The 3D is worth the extra cost.

Even though the film has so many bits of other films in it, enough new and original material and characters are introduced to make this a fun and captivating watch. The actors all do great jobs. The story has enough spin on the usual formula to make it enjoyable and fresh.

Highly recommended!

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