Doctor Strange (2016)

DVD Cover (Walt Disney Studios)
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Overall Rating 75%
Overall Rating
Ranked #145
...out of 22,328 movies
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Marvel's "Doctor Strange" follows the story of the talented neurosurgeon Doctor Stephen Strange who, after a tragic car accident, must put ego aside and learn the secrets of a hidden world of mysticism and alternate dimensions. Based in New York City's Greenwich Village, Doctor Strange must act as an intermediary between the real world and what lies beyond, utilizing a vast array of metaphysical abilities and artifacts to protect the Marvel Cinematic Universe. --IMDb
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Review by Crispy
Added: November 14, 2016
The Marvel Machine has taken its next step, and boy was it one hell of a step. Not only did they bring in a brand new character, but they brought in a whole new genre. While Thor toes the line, this is the first time they've used full blown magic. In a cinematic universe that's founded most of its heroes on science and technology, this could change everything.

Dr. Stephen Strange is the premier brain surgeon in the world and he absolutely knows it. He's an arrogant son of a bitch, turning down any case that's either the slightest bit mundane or could ruin his "perfect record". As he's tearing his Lamborghini through a mountain rainstorm discussing a case he's interested in (I'm sure this is referencing another character I'm not familiar with), he catches a car head on, launching him over the precipice. The impact has left his hands a crippled, useless mess of irreparable nerve damage and steel plates. In that instant, his entire world is ripped away and he quickly wastes his fortune on increasingly experimental procedures. At the end of his rope, he learns of a man with similar injuries who has healed himself after traveling to Kathmandu. Spending his last dime on the trip, he meets The Ancient One, who lets him on a little secret: sorcery and magic are in fact very real and hold the key to healing his body. While it's not going to be easy to just forget years of scientifically-based teaching, he launches himself into this new curriculum with an unmatched vigor. His timing couldn't be worse however, as one of The Ancient One's former pupils has stolen a ritual that has granted them power from The Dark Dimension, a realm of anguish beyond time.

So, I'll be perfectly honest. I don't know very much about Dr. Strange at all, so for the most part, this review will be focused solely on the movie itself. Unfortunately, it just so happens that the movie wasn't that great. It's a patchwork of tropes and cliches, capped off with some heavily ham-fisted attempts at humor and a shallow love interest as a distant side-plot. We've seen hubris result in tragedy that then leads to a new-found humility. We've seen skeptics learn that supernatural abilities exist, struggle in the beginning and then go on to become a master. Yes, there's a reason these stories are told over and over again, but you have to do something to give each individual tale its own legs to stand on. Frankly, Dr. Strange doesn't. It just goes through the motions and wraps it all up by thinning out a deeper concept so badly Chris Nolan would have been proud and utilizing a resolution that had me rolling my eyes. Now, don't get me wrong, I did have quite a bit of fun with it. Some of the jokes got a laugh out of me, and Marvel never disappoints in the action scenes, there just isn't enough meat on these bones.

With all that said, I can't praise the visuals enough. A big part of this magic is entering the Mirror Dimension where they can bend reality to their will. Try and imagine a battle where gravity is constantly rotating onto the walls, which are constantly folding and reforming themselves like some bastard child of M. C. Escher and Cyriak. In addition, the inter-dimensional travel bought together the psychedelia of the 70s with the CGI abilities of today. Again, it looked absolutely stunning. I'm sure plenty of the comments about watching this movie under the influence have been made, but it sure would be an experience. Still, while I love the detail and effort that brought these scenes to life, all of that flash is supposed to be a supplement to the the movie, not it's identifier. Unfortunately, that's what we have here.

I'm sure it comes as no surprise to anyone who's familiar with the man's work that Benedict Cumberbatch rocked his performance. Again, I can't speak for his portrayal's comic accuracy, but in its own little vacuum, he was a fun character. While you could certainly make the argument that the Universe probably doesn't need another sarcastic, arrogant genius, he seems to have grown past that to a humble source of mystical knowledge. It's a niche currently unfilled, and I'm looking forward to see how this new power melds with the established Universe. Likewise, Tilda Swinton's also lives up to her reputation with The Ancient One, providing a charm that belied her world-weary position. With that said, she should have never been cast. You see, director Scott Derrickson was so petrified about putting a stereotype on screen that he changed the character from an old Asian man to a white woman. Not only is this thought process completely illogical (for a man who's so worried about his PC points, you'd think he'd be a bit more savvy about whitewashing. Maybe he felt the gender bending canceled it out?), but it's undeniably lazy. They completely revamped Wong to make him less of a stereotype, why not just do the same with The Ancient One? In a secondary role, Chiwetal Ejiofor uses the quiet bad-ass character that he's made his bread and butter. I know I've criticized many different actors for pulling the same shtick in every movie, but Ejiofor has earned a free pass from me.

Like Ant-Man before it, this debut film got me excited about the character himself, but didn't give me much of a vessel for him to perform in. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad movie and I did enjoy it, it's just shallow. Hopefully Marvel will realize a new character needs a strong impact and will raise their future debut movies to the caliber of their ensemble films. 6/10.
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