Doctor Strange – A Movie Review

This is a Marvel movie unlike any other.  You will see insane special effects that absolutely transfix.  And though the movie is somewhat beholden to the cliched “origin story,” it does attempt, perhaps more so than ever before, to present a true journey to heroism.  In the end, though, it had a major flaw.

Doctor Strange is not a very heroic man in the beginning of the movie.  He is arrogant, egocentric, and concerned only with his work and resulting reputation.  Of course, the charming Benedict Cumberbatch plays the title character, so we can’t help but like Doctor Strange even as he is saying things that aren’t very charitable.  A terrible accident steals his sense of self-worth, and in traveling to the Far East, Strange enters a world that forces him to set aside his ego and eventually evolve into a hero.

As I already said, Doctor Strange has some amazing visuals.  It’s also got plenty of action, nice moments of humor, a strong attempt at character development, and it knows how to walk a delicate line between the relatively grounded Marvel Universe and the surreal world of Doctor Strange.

I appreciate that they avoided well-trodden romantic angles (though I think they wasted a very talented Rachel McAdams).  I like that they kept Doctor Strange somewhat limited because he is mostly a novice at the mystic arts.  I also thought it was smart to show us the progression of Strange from being self-centered into a man willing to sacrifice.

Did it have Ant-Man’s sense of fun?  No.  Was it as funny as Guardians Of the Galaxy?  Nope.  Was the physical action as intense as The Winter Soldier?  Not by a long shot.  Did it have Iron Man’s flat-out charisma?  It did not.  Yet it was not a disappointment because it had a little of all of those things.  It was just different from the other Marvel movies, and I mean that as a compliment because the super hero movie must find new ways to unfold if it is to retain an audience’s interest, and Doctor Strange fought to do just that.

In talking with a friend after seeing the movie, however, we decided the movie missed a major opportunity that ultimately left it flawed.

SPOILERS AHEAD …

Like so many movies of late, Doctor Strange ends with our hero facing down a previously unseen “big baddie” in an alternate, trippy dimension.  While I love the method Doctor Strange used to defeat the “big baddie,” and while it certainly solidified his metamorphosis into a hero, it felt a forced and emotionally unimportant.  A major issue super hero movies have is that the big fight at the end must utilize grander and grander stakes, and while Doctor Strange attempted to circumnavigate the typical final conflict with the “big baddie” by employing a clever solution, it still felt disconnected to the story preceding it because, like I said, we had no emotional stake in this “big baddie” before the final confrontation.

On the other hand, Doctor Strange had an excellent ending gift-wrapped and ready to explore, but instead went with the “big baddie” approach.  Doctor Strange must confront The Ancient One near the end of the movie, and, by this point, we all love The Ancient One. She has a connection to the main villains present throughout the film, and by having Doctor Strange defeat her using the exact same technique as he did the “big baddie,” those villains could have lost their conduit to the “Dark Dimension” mentioned throughout the film.  Having a hero reluctantly defeat his teacher, and having a teacher forced to fight her student is the stuff of great depth and while the creators definitely could have wandered into cliched territory with this approach, I think the audience would have been far more invested in it as a final conflict.

Doctor Strange is visually stunning, has charismatic actors playing the leads, attempts a story told differently, but falls victim to many super hero movie mistakes, particularly that of the disconnected “big baddie.”

Image result for dr strange movie poster

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