movies: doctor strange

doctor strange: question reality, change your destiny
Doctor Strange is the latest outing from Marvel Studios, and while it was a character that I had heard of, he's also one I know next to nothing about beyond a few references on one of the podcasts I listen to.

What it turned out to be is a very visually spectacular movie and a somewhat interesting character.

Let's get my only major nitpick out of the way first though. While I love what Marvel does with their movies, they have yet to create a half decent villain that isn't Loki. The problem as always is that you either need to have the villain escape at the end, or die in such a way that he could return, or use a villain who is good enough to move the plot along but who doesn't need to be there by the end of the movie (or he's some giant galactic heavy who's pulling everyone's strings, but that's another story).

And in this case, Kaecilius played by Mads Mikkelsen, it's the third one. He's also basically a cult leader/religion zealot whose motivations are maybe a little muddy.

There is also the major drama that happened before the movie had even finished filming, where characters who where ethnic minorities in the original stories had been turned into white characters, or, more accurately, whitewashing. And I can see the problem, I understand why it's a problem, it would be much better if it didn't happen to the degree that it does... but I'll be honest, it didn't really bother my enjoyment of it all that much. The movie also doesn't even pass the Bechdel–Wallace test for goodness sake, not really surprising given that there are only two major female characters, and they never meet.

Getting back to the good stuff though. As I said, I was pleasantly surprised by this movie, especially from the amount and quality of special effects on show. It's funny, something like Iron Man or Captain America probably has as many effects shots, but they're not trying to break reality, so they don't call attention to themselves, whereas here they've just thrown the who CGI toybox on the floor and gone to town with it. Think Inception, but ramped up to about 100.

And watching all those effects happen was gorgeous... and I will definitely want to watch that again at some point just to pick up everything I inevitably missed.

Doctor Strange is played by Benedict Cumberbund, who I'll admit I'm not a huge fan of and who definitely suffers from a bad case of "they-want-to-put-him-in-everything-itis" which means he's a little overexposed. But having said that he does a fairly good job with Strange, which is interesting because the character makes it really, really, really easy to dislike him for the first part of the movie, and it's a flaw that could be hard to recover from... and I'm still not completely sure how he managed it to be honest.

I was also impressed by Rachel McAdams who performs some of the weightier emotional moments at the beginning of the movie as Dr Palmer, Strange's ex-girlfriend.

And when you need an ancient, unnamed sorcerer supreme, who else would you go to other than Tilda Swinton (her role of The Ancient One is the one that had accusations of whitewashing, which is a shame, because she's great in the role, and a kick-ass female character to boot.

Like all origin stories, the plot has to find those familiar beats of character's life being changed, character finds their new path, character passes through their on personal trials, character meets adversary, character learns something, character conquers the aforementioned adversary, roll credits. There's no major diversions from that here, and they do make it perhaps a little more on the serious side than some of the other Marvel movies, but it does use levity very well (as Marvel movies always do).

But at it's core, this is more of a visual experience than anything else, and on that front it succeeds beautifully. All in all though, it surprised me a little bit... while there is a certain standard I've come to expect from Marvel movies, this one was better than I was expecting.

yani's rating: 3 sling rings out of 5

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