December 8, 2022

Gabbing Geek

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Geek Review: Doctor Strange

Marvel's Sorcerer Supreme takes center stage in this mystical origin story.

Was there a single Marvel movie Jenny has been anticipating more than Doctor Strange?  Probably not.  I mean, we got a scene of shirtless Cumberbatch, so why not?

But the movie had to come out.  And I saw it.  Here’s a SPOILER FREE review.

I had a lot of fun with this one.  Cumberbatch may have been the obvious choice for Stephen Strange, brilliant neurosurgeon-turned-wizard after an accident ruins the nerves in his hands.  While it is true that Marvel has something of a cookie-cutter technique for origin stories in their films, I find them fun origin stories.  Marvel’s biggest problems often come with sequels.  If anything, the biggest problem with Doctor Strange‘s approach to this is that Cumberbatch’s Stephen Strange could just as easily be Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark in terms of his personality flaws and eventual heroic call to duty.  So, what we have here could be seen as Wizard Iron Man.

Fortunately, the movie does have some other things going for it, not the least is Cumberbatch himself.  Though his natural British accent might have worked better, he does know arrogant and can toss off the silly as easily as anyone without looking self-conscious.  That may be the biggest skill any actor can bring to a superhero movie:  wear the suit, spout the lines, and don’t look ridiculous while doing it.

Case in point...and if this is the image that goes out with this article's Twitter announcement, then that should confuse a lot of people.
Case in point…and if this is the image that goes out with this article’s Twitter or Facebook announcements, then that should confuse a lot of people.

Besides Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton seems to be having a fine old time as the Ancient One.  She has an energy often missing from supporting characters in MCU films.  Likewise, Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Mordo provides some good support for Strange while setting up a relationship any fans of Strange’s comic book adventures knew was coming.  Benedict Wong’s Wong was more than just an Asian butler and looked like he could kick his fair share of ass while providing a lot of the humor the film provided for its human characters.

Best of all was definitely the special effects.  While Marvel films have had a lot of impressive effects in the past, nothing like Doctor Strange has seen the big screen from them before.  Mirror dimensions, Dark Dimensions, and buildings twisted in ways that would make Neo and Morpheus blink in confusion were the necessary order of the day.  In fact, the way Strange ultimately saved the day was a fine bit of fun in and of itself since he did it in a way that I don’t think we’ve seen a Marvel hero do so before, and I don’t mean by pulling some desperate plan together at the last second.  True, he does come up with something late in the movie, but it wasn’t the sort of thing that usually happens where the hero is told of some sort of special trap that should be avoided, then isn’t, and then somehow works.

Sadly, not everything worked.  It’s hard to say who had a weaker part:  Rachel McAdams as the obligatory love interest, or Mads Mikkelsen as the movie’s villain.  Mikkelsen, like many Marvel villains, was a fine actor given a nothing role.  Any fan of his turn as Hannibal Lecter on TV will wish he had more to do.  As for McAdams, she almost seemed to come from a different movie.  Strange’s medical knowledge comes in handy once in a while, but it was doubtful that they needed to give him a minor love interest in the hospital.

Final verdict:  nine out of ten weaponized cloaks.

Hey!  Jimmy here.  I saw Doctor Strange as well.  Here are my thoughts…

I’ve never been a fan of Doctor Strange.  I don’t dislike him, but his comics have never grabbed my attention.  I’ve always felt any of his appearances in Spider-Man or the various Secret Gauntlet style crossover events were more than enough to satisfy any appetite I had for destruction the good doctor.

So when Marvel announced that Doctor Strange would be one of their next films, my reaction was mostly “meh”.  Casting Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange though…now you had me at least intrigued.

Fast forward to our first look at the trailers for the film.  I think if Inception hadn’t beaten the film to the theatre by six years (wow…is Inception that old?) we’d have been more blown away by the epic folding city landscapes that were on display.  The film looked good, with a somewhat bankable star, but based on a mostly obscure character.  The same could be used to describe last year’s Ant-Man.  As such, I was really expecting a similar box office result.

Boy was I wrong.  Instead, Doctor Strange has really clicked with audiences.  Opening to an impressive 85 million, placing it only behind Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy for a non-sequel MCU film.  And in comparison, blowing Ant-Man’s $57 mil opening out of the water.  It also has a fantastic Rotten Tomatoes score of 90% which is on par with Captain America: Civil War and is only behind Iron Man (94%), The Avengers (92%) and Guardians of the Galaxy (91%).

“But Jimmy, what did you think of the movie?”

Well, since you asked, I really liked it.  I did find the pace could have been just slightly quicker in the first half, but it wasn’t like painfully Luke Cage slow or anything.  And those Inception sequences…surprisingly they worked.  Once you got beyond the very similar spectacle, the film does some imaginative stuff with the concept.  And of course, the cast was stellar.

Ryan complained that it was more special effects than story.  I get that.  For a film universe built on special effects, it is hard to complain here, but it did feel like an exercise in CGI.  I have no idea, but I would guess it had more CG shots than any previous Marvel film.  But while Ryan found it to be too much, I thought it added to the story and separated it from other Marvel films.  The world of Doctor Strange is unlike anything we’ve seen in the Marvel Universe before.

Watson liked it, but complained about it being an origin story, which he dislikes.  Like Tom, I have a weakness for origin stories, so enjoyed that aspect of it quite a bit.  And I think it is a very important component for this movie in particular.  Everyone kinda knows Spider-Man’s origin.  Even if you are not that familiar with the specifics, you know Tony Stark is the guy in the Iron Man suit.  Cap’s a man out of time.  Thor’s a God.  Who the hell knows Doctor Strange’s origin?

Yes, the film has a villain problem like most non-Loki Marvel film, but this is about the journey of Stephen Strange from respected surgeon (who for some reason is on the Hydra watch list) to Sorcerer Supreme.  And in that respect, it succeeds admirable.

I give Doctor Strange 8.5 out of 10 I so wanted Doctor Strange to use Dr. Evil’s medical school line.


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