Wednesday, November 02, 2016
Whenever a superhero movie releases, most people are already familiar with him or her, so they go into the movie theater with a preconceived notion of what to expect. That is how it has always been with me. Dr. Strange is the first superhero movie that I've watched knowing absolutely nothing about the character, his powers, his backstory, or his enemies. Sure, I've seen illustrations of Dr. Strange, but he just looked like a sinister old guy, so I was never really interested in delving deeper into his story. When Marvel announced they were doing a Dr. Strange movie, I wasn't exactly counting the days until I could watch the movie. I was mostly counting on the reputation that Marvel and Disney have built up with the Avengers for coming up with an entertaining movie.
After watching a preview last night, I'm happy to report that my faith was rewarded, and all the hype that Dr. Strange is getting is well deserved! It's like The Matrix without all the confusing plot twists combined with a classic kung fu movie, with amazing special effects, humor, and contemporary references (Beyonce, wifi passwords) thrown in.
I was surprised to discover that I actually love the character of Dr. Strange. He reminds me a lot of Tony Stark -- the arrogant genius part. I love how Benedict Cumberbatch brings a younger, more modern, and more handsome look to Stephen Strange than the classic comic book image. Actually, I love Benedict Cumberbatch, period. He makes a great arrogant doctor, a great bearded bum, desperately seeking salvation, and a great hero, using his intellect along with his willpower to defeat his enemy. The costume he ends up with when he fully embraces his identity as Dr. Strange, sorcerer, looks a bit cheesy, especially with the cape -- but his Cloak of Levitation actually turns out to be the best thing about his costume because it is a sentient object, much like Aladdin's magic carpet. I really hope they develop the cloak's character a lot further in future movies!
A word on the special effects: I've read reviews saying that you should watch this movie for the special effects alone. They are that good. You may have seen some of them on the movie previews, and I'm here to say that this is NOT one of those cases that they've shown the best scenes in the previews. There are way more and way better scenes! Dr. Strange's enemy, along with his mentor, have the ability to warp time and space, so you will see buildings fold into themselves, floors turn into ceilings, people running upside down, all at lightning speed. I actually found myself getting dizzy from all the shifts in perspective! Watching the movie in 3D really enhanced the experience. There are many movies where I think it's a waste of time to pay extra to watch in 3D -- Dr. Strange is NOT one of them. The occasional dizziness and nausea I felt was actually worth it.
Another thing I had to address: the whitewashing. I had read a lot of criticism about Marvel's whitewashing of the Ancient One character played by Tilda Swinton. That, along with the comic book image, were the only 2 preconceived notions that I had coming into the movie. I have to say that I agree with the critics; the Ancient One could have been played by a more ethnically appropriate character than Tilda Swinton. She's an amazing actress but I don't think she brought anything unique to the role. However, I don't think this is a reason to boycott the movie either, because if a black man can play Johnny Storm, then a white woman can play The Ancient One.
Oh, yeah, the story. Here's the synopsis:
From Marvel Studios comes “Doctor Strange,” the story of world-famous neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange whose life changes forever after a horrific car accident robs him of the use of his hands. When traditional medicine fails him, he is forced to look for healing, and hope, in an unlikely place—a mysterious enclave known as Kamar-Taj. He quickly learns that this is not just a center for healing but also the front line of a battle against unseen dark forces bent on destroying our reality. Before long Strange—armed with newly acquired magical powers—is forced to choose whether to return to his life of fortune and status or leave it all behind to defend the world as the most powerful sorcerer in existence. Join Strange on his dangerous, mystifying, and totally mind-bending journey when Marvel Studios’ “Doctor Strange” opens in U.S. theaters on November 4, 2016.
I deliberately left the story for last because I thought it was the least important thing about the movie. The movie lasted less than 2 hours, so in comparison to other Marvel movies you don't get a lot of the plot complications or surprise endings or extended fight scenes (which is a good thing). You don't get a lot of character development either (which is not a good thing). You definitely get the feeling that this movie was more like a backstory intended to introduce viewers to Dr. Strange and get them invested in his story. If that is the case, they definitely succeeded: as soon as I got home, I went on the internet to find out more about Dr. Strange, and I can't wait for him to show up in other Marvel movies! Would I watch this movie again? Probably. Would I watch a sequel? Definitely!
As always, stay till the end of the movie for 2 bonus scenes, both featuring some well-known actors.
Dr. Strange opens in theaters across the US on Friday, November 4.
Disclosure: To assist me with my review, I was invited to an advance screening of Dr. Strange. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.