Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Movies: Doctor Strange

Marvel continues its string of hits with the Master of the Mystic Arts, Dr Strange. Cummerbund Bandersnatch (kidding! You know it’s Benedict Cumberbatch) plays Dr. Stephen Strange, a rich, arrogant snob of a neurological surgeon. Cold to his patients, condescending to his peers and addicted to wealth and power, Strange loses it all after an explosive auto accident. When Western medicine fails to restore his health, he looks to the East for a more mystical solution. There he finds the Ancient One, a mystical teacher who accepts him as a student and helps him heal his body and open his mind.

While training with other students, including the enigmatic Baron Mordo, Strange shows some aptitude for magic and spells, kicking and dragging his logical medical mind into the process. He learns of a major magical threat to the world and teams with his new peers to battle it, despite his neophyte status. 

Mr. Bandersnatch as Dr. Strange
Doctor Strange hits all the right buttons; growing and changing Strange into a bearable, caring human being, providing several intimidating protagonists and blowing viewers’ minds with special effects. Doctor Strange has the most trippy, complex and awe-inspiring visuals of any Marvel movie so far. The effects not only evoke otherworldly magic, but also the art of Steve Ditko, Dr. Strange co-creator (along with Stan Lee, who has a rather bland cameo in the film) and designer of some extremely wild alt-dimensional worlds in the original comic. This movie displays a unique and electrifying visual design sense. 

Doctor Strange does follow the normal Marvel movie formula, which is a strength here. There is an origin, dangerous protagonists who threaten to end the world and a slam-bang resolution. Along the way the acting, magic battles and art direction are absolutely stunning. 

The only negative in the movie is Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. As portrayed in the comic, the Ancient One is an Asian man from Tibet. I’m not sure if they changed the character from an Asian man to a bald English woman for political reasons (China is a huge movie market, and the Chinese government doesn’t want to see a heroic character from disputed client nation Tibet), politically correct reasons (I thought race trumped sex in PC culture. Liberals, please educate me), or just because the director wanted to change something to put his stamp on the story. Regardless, the story follows the original Lee/Ditko comics closely except for this important detail.

The Ancient One
Not the Ancient One
Overall, Doctor Strange adds magic to the Marvel brand, and I look forward to his sequels and appearances in other Marvel films, as hinted in the post-credits scene. Doctor Strange is a fun romp well deserving of your time.

Rating: **** out of 5 stars

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