Doctor Strange is a movie pushing as hard as it can to live outside of the normal Marvel structure. It’s got fantasy. It’s got hallucinogenic visuals. It’s got time manipulation. Heck, it’s even got Tilda Swinton in a bald cap for goodness sake! But for all the ingenuity and creativity, Doctor Strange ultimately fails to break free from the preordained Marvel origin movie template.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: an arrogant, cocky, sarcastic middle-aged white guy gets humbled, gains extraordinary powers and must learn to live for the betterment of others. Also, he has a goatee.
Yes. Doctor Strange ripped the skeleton out of Iron Man and covered it with mysticism and magic. If you’re hoping to see a thought provoking story of human triumph. Watch something else. You’ve seen this narrative before.
However, what you haven’t seen in a comic book movie is onslaught of mind-bending special effects, unless of course you like to eat mushrooms before hitting up your local cinema. I’m not naive enough to say that there isn’t a fair amount of visual inspiration from Inception, but Doctor Strange takes everything a step further.
I will go so far as to say that there is an action sequence towards the end of Doctor Strange that is so unique and so ambitious that I think it surpasses the airport sequence of Civil War. I had never seen anything like that in a movie and I’ve got to give the filmmakers huge props.
You know what else I haven’t seen before? So many top-tier actors pretending to be sorcerers. Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Mads Mikkelsen are all Academy Award-level actors. How did Marvel convince them all to be in such a potentially silly movie? Money, probably.
Well the money worked and the actors were worth it. Otherwise I think the entire movie would fall apart. The talented cast were able to convey deep connections with one another despite there being very much time to actually create those character bonds in the movie. Doctor Strange moves just way too damn fast.
We hardly get any character development for Dr. Strange. His character just does all the things because that’s what the script says he’s supposed to do and look isn’t it great that he’s not a jerk now?
Well, we barely got to see him be an arrogant jerk. We barely got to see him struggle with learning sorcery (apparently it takes just one montage). And when Dr. Strange is finally taking on the big bad guys, we haven’t seen him do anything prior to that to make us thing he could even stand up to such a strong force.
It’s all just too rushed. But like I said, the actors are so good that it’s just believable enough. I’m sure they have years and years of backstory in their minds as they are performing. I just wish we could experience a fraction of it. Character stories will always be more enticing to me than cool looking visuals.
But damn, there are some cool looking visuals.
Although… I do find it a bit curious that a movie so heavily focused on Eastern culture features only one Asian actor. Eh, I’m not opening that can of worms.