Sunday, October 30, 2016

Doctor Strange

Year: 2016
Director: Scott Derrickson
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen, Benedict Wong

Plot: When a brilliant neurosurgeon loses the use of his hands in a car accident, he travels east to Nepal to find a cure. Instead he discovers a group of mages who opens his eyes to the truth about the universe, and learns how to be one of them.

Review: After seeing a group of heroes defend the world together as the Avengers, who became so mostly due to science and physics, it's time to meet a hero who defies science altogether and uses magic instead.

Stephen Strange is a brilliant but arrogant neurosurgeon who gets into a car accident and injures his hands severely, and now unable to continue being a surgeon. After exhausting all his options, he travels to Nepal to find a group that healed a paralyzed man, hoping they can do the same for him. He discovers the Kamar-Taj, led by the Ancient One, who teaches him about the multiverse and how he can use magic not only to heal himself, but to become one of them and save the world from evil. In this case, it is a former student of the Ancient One, Kaecilius, who seeks to open a door to the Dark Dimension in search of immortality.

I keep hearing how this movie is being compared to Inception and I hate that, since this film is better than Inception and nowhere similar in concept. I prefer comparing Doctor Strange to The Matrix, since both films are about a man who learns that the world is not what he always thought it was, and that he is the chosen one to save it. Director Scott Derrickson (Sinister) uses a truckload of CGI to present the multiverses and how the film's characters travel through them by opening portals, or fold and spin the world around them (hence the Inception comparison). I have to say that the result is quite impressive, and definitely something Marvel fans haven't seen before in previous MCU entries.

Benedict Cumberbatch is very charismatic as Strange, giving the character an equal balance of ego and subsequent humility, with a dose of humor. Chiwetel Ejiofor in contrast is more serious as Mordo, Strange's comrade, though if you've seen the trailers, you'd know he gets the best joke in the film. Benedict Wong also does well as Wong, the group's librarian, who gets some funny scenes with Cumberbatch. Tilda Swinton throws in a straightforward yet curious performance as the Ancient One, and it sort of works.

The weakness of the film is the same thing that has plagued Marvel films as of late: the villain. It's been hard to find one that can match Loki, and unfortunately Mads Mikkelsen's Kaecilius is nowhere close to being intimidating or memorable. It certainly isn't his fault, it's just the way the character was written. Rachel McAdams' Christine Palmer is also a rather poorly written character, being nothing more than Strange's glorified love interest. McAdams does try to stand out though.

The action sequences are quite good, though some of the fights looked a bit blurry. Derrickson probably isn't accustomed to filming fights, but he makes up for it by overall making an MCU film that can stand on its own, with only subtle references to the Avengers, so one can enjoy it without referring to previous entries.

Overall, Doctor Strange is yet another strong entry into the Marvel universe. And as usual, stay for the post-credits scene. (8/10)

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