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Too by-the-numbers considering the source

Posted : 1 week ago on 13 August 2017 12:04

At this point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a certain degree of competency is expected and it seems impossible for the studio to produce an outright bad motion picture. With this in mind, although the productions can be somewhat let down by imperfections or nit-picky things, you can always rest assured that the movies are at least good and still stand above most other blockbusters in a given year. Therefore, while 2016's Doctor Strange does fall short of the brilliance of Iron Man and The Avengers, it is a competent way to establish and introduce a new comic book superhero to the ever-expanding MCU. And with its emphasis on magic and alternate dimensions, it's a refreshing change from the norm. It's just disappointing that Doctor Strange feels so...by-the-numbers. Oh sure, it's well-made from top to bottom and the actors are superb, but the narrative structure is pure cliché and it's produced like any other superhero blockbuster when an experimental style would be more suitable considering the source.




A hotshot New York-based neurosurgeon, Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) maintains a remarkable perfect record, consistently performing miracles in operating theatres. Strange has one hell of an ego to boot, too cocky and self-absorbed to have a relationship with sweet fellow surgeon Christine (Rachel McAdams). But Strange is taught a painful lesson in humility when a horrendous car accident leaves him with severe nerve damage, rendering him no longer able to use his hands to perform surgeries. Desperate for a solution, Strange is led to Nepal in pursuit of a rumoured miracle breakthrough, finding his way to the secret compound Kamar-Taj where he meets the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). Although Strange outright rejects the possibility of other dimensions, the Ancient One opens his eyes to the powers within him far greater than the mere physical. Accepted into the compound as a student, Strange also becomes acquainted with his mentor Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and librarian Wong (Benedict Wong). As Strange hones his skills in the Mystic Arts, former student Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) goes against the Ancient One's teachings, stealing pages from a sacred text to contact Dormammu of the Dark Dimension, putting Earth in immediate peril.

Refreshingly, Doctor Strange actually feels closer to a standalone Phase One Marvel movie, as it's welcomely unburdened of obligatory MCU connections. Additional scenes in the credits do set up future Marvel movies, and there's a subtle reference to Captain America: Civil War, but that's about it, making this one ideal for more casual viewers as well as the uninitiated. Written by Jon Spaihts (Prometheus), C. Robert Cargill (Sinister), and director Scott Derrickson, Doctor Strange adopts the time-honoured "origins story" format that's unfortunately been done to death this century alone - it's hard to shake the feeling that you've seen this narrative before. As the movie works through its familiar origins routine, it feels like homework, as there isn't enough to sufficiently enliven the material. Especially in the shadow of Deadpool, this formula is all the more rote and stale. Dialogue is not exactly a strong suit either, but at least the movie is peppered with amusing moments, and the soundtrack features a couple of catchy songs.




Even though Doctor Strange was advertised as a mind-bending, surreal extravaganza, it still plays out with an action/blockbuster sensibility due to the apparently unwritten rule that every superhero movie must be action-oriented. But here's the thing - trippy, psychedelic, colourful visuals are best appreciated when you can sit back, relax, soak in it, and properly take it all in. Thus, Derrickson concentrates on delivering large-scale, kinetic action set-pieces as opposed to deliberately-paced, surrealistic immersion and esoteric cerebral exploration that might have made for a more interesting movie, especially in the context of the MCU which is already in danger of feeling too "factory made." After all, Doctor Strange was presented as "the weird Marvel movie."

With that said, however, once you can accept that it kind of had to be an action movie, there is plenty to enjoy. The set-pieces are genuinely enthralling, observing these talented characters conjuring up weapons out of thin air, manipulating gravity, and even battling it out in the astral dimension. Doctor Strange is one of the most visually intriguing and breathtaking offerings in the MCU (next to the Guardians of the Galaxy pictures), and the $165 million budget is put to good use to create stunning battlefields of folding cities and brilliant displays of light, earning the visual effects team a well-deserved Oscar nomination. Commendably, the movie builds to a satisfying climax which allows Strange to use both his physical skills as well as his intellectual prowess as he endeavours to vanquish the powerful Dormammu. Horror maestro Scott Derrickson's last blockbuster attempt was the 2008 underperformer The Day the Earth Stood Still, and luckily he shows much better command of the material here.




Espousing a convincing enough American accent, Cumberbatch is ideal in the role of Stephen Strange, suiting the character to a tee. He convincingly conveys the various aspects of Strange - from his self-inflated cockiness to his psychological breakdown and subsequent rebuilding, Cumberbatch never sets a wrong foot. Alongside him, Ejiofor is instantly likeable, while Wong is a downright standout. Swinton chose to portray the Ancient One as androgynous, and she easily impresses in the role, while McAdams is her usual appealing self. Showing up as the primary villain is Mikkelsen, an immensely talented performer who made a huge impression in the television show Hannibal, and who has also appeared in the likes of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and The Salvation. He's reliably terrific as Kaecilius, sinister whilst simultaneously displaying his trademark charm. Also keep a lookout for action star Scott Adkins in a small role which nevertheless gives him the chance to show off his insane fighting abilities.

This review may seem overly negative in some respects, but that is certainly not my intention. For all intents and purposes, Doctor Strange is a very good, often great addition to the Marvel franchise, but its rote construction does let it down to a certain degree. Happily, however, there is still much to admire - it looks amazing, the magical powers are fascinating, and it lovingly inaugurates a new Marvel franchise that promises to be something different. With the obligatory origins story out of the way, fingers crossed that Doctor Strange 2 is an improvement - it certainly left me hungry to see a sequel. It should go without saying by now, but be sure to stick around until the end of the credits.

7.3/10



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Doctor Strange review

Posted : 6 months ago on 22 February 2017 02:51

Notes:
*I feel ashamed that I haven't gotten to see this until now.
*How can I let myself miss a Marvel film while it's in theaters.
*The trailer reminded me of something like Harry Potter meets Inception.
*I also felt for the most part it looked quite serious.
*Anyways at least I have my chance now.
*The cast is pretty awesome.
*Scott Derrickson has also written and directed Deliver Us From Evil and Sinister which were two excellent horror movies.
*The rest of his movies are average or just bad.
*Jon Spaihts also wrote Prometheus and The Darkest Hour both of which I thought were pretty good.
*C. Robert Cargill wrote on both of the Sinister movies with Scott Derrickson so that's a plus.
*So let's see how they did with Doctor Strange finally!

Pros:
*It's visually stunning.
*There is a lot more humor than I was expecting, but it still gets pretty dark at times.
*The magic stuff was pretty cool to look at.
*The characters were well developed and add some more flavor to the universe.
*Those two scenes during the credits were greatness.

Cons:
*Not enough Rachel McAdams or Scott Adkins.

Verdict:
It's a welcome addition to the MCU. I really liked Strange, Wong, and Mordo. Mads Mikkelsen was an excellent villain of course. It's really spectacular to look it. It doesn't take itself too seriously which I liked. If you haven't seen it yet get to it. I think even without following the universe it could still be a pretty fun watch.


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Doctor Strange

Posted : 9 months ago on 21 November 2016 04:38

Praise be to the comic book gods, because Marvel finally made a film that embraces the entirety of cinema’s possibilities. Prior entries, and by that I mean practically all of them, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe lazily drifted towards a basic televisual style. These films are basically entertaining enough, although unfortunately drifting towards a sameness, but often free of idiosyncratic personalities and vibrancy. Doctor Strange does not entirely shake free the script problems and lack of diversity that the entire franchise is burden with, but at least it will distract you with outré visuals and a fun sense kookiness.

 

Another movie in the Marvel series, another origin story about a douchebag white dude that needs to be humbled before he can become a great hero. Thankfully we blow through these early portions of the film and focus more on his training in the mystic arts. What does this mean? It means we spend a lot more time bouncing between realities, soaking in various psychedelic landscapes and eye-gouging colors that frequently disorientate you in the best of ways.

 

Doctor Strange shows it hand early with the opening battle scene between the under-cooked villain (a problem they’ve never managed to shake off) and the wise elder with deep ties to journeys of both the hero and villain. As these two powerful sorcerers meet, they engage in a battle that turns London’s buildings and streets into a living Escher drawing, or maybe a series of eternally moving clockwork parts. This one breaks free from any grounding in reality right out the gate, and thank the cinematic gods for this. (Say what you want about DC’s cinematic universe, it is half-baked narratively and tonally, but it came roaring out the gate with beautiful, painterly images that linger in the mind more so than any Marvel movie until this one.)

 

It’s not that all that Doctor Strange has is a series of increasingly wild, weird, and vibrant images and locations, but this is the strongest selling point. The cast is uniformly strong, and how could it not be when it’s top-lined by three Oscar nominees (Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams), an Oscar winner (Tilda Swinton), and one of our great underrated actors (Mads Mikkelsen) breathing life into these characters. Despite all of that great talent on display, Doctor Strange continues on with Marvel’s female problem, with only two characters given names, dialog, and anything to play. It’s a shame that McAdams is wasted in the “girlfriend” role, but she brings a pleasing seriousness and smarts to the undercooked role.

 

Even worse is how Marvel has taken a franchise that leans heavily on Eastern mysticism and failed to give any Asian actors but Benedict Wong something to do. Diversity is not the strongest selling point for the MCU, and Strange had several chances to shake things up in this regard but failed to do so. Once again, any and all characters of color are regulated to supporting players and sidekick roles. Would it truly have changed the character of Stephen Strange to cast an Asian actor? I’ll give them props for thinking outside the box in gender-flipping the Ancient One and race-bending Mordo, but not enough to overcome making them merely the supporting, training players to the hero.

 

At least Doctor Strange takes the final act, normally a series of ever-increasing collateral damage and rubble, and literally uses magic to undo it. Instead of a gigantic, scenery-destroying battle between Strange and the demonic Dormammu, this film has them stuck in a time warp replaying the same moments over and over again. It’s humorous to watch the various ways Dormammu kills Strange before giving up and agreeing to bargain with the sorcerer. This isn’t the only memorable fight sequence in the film, but it’s refreshing how it swerves right on the typical Marvel formula when all signs are pointing towards another sequence of massive property destruction with debris falling from the sky.

 

Despite my criticisms, Doctor Strange is the first entry in this particular subsection of the wider franchise, and I look forward to where his further adventures will take him. The mid and end-credits teasers give us plenty of clues, and I look forward to them. This film is finally a Marvel product that embraces the insanity of the comics in a more profound way than many of the others have up to this point. This is more of what I’ve wanted from Marvel films. Now if they could just fix their female and racial diversity problems.



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Doctor Strange review

Posted : 9 months, 2 weeks ago on 6 November 2016 02:22

Dr Strange: La película me gusta más que Civil War, con eso comienzo todo.

Los efectos visuales y enfrentamientos están muy tremendos, quería que estuvieran un poco más largas, pero esta muy bien para ser el principio para futuras secuelas.

Algunos de sus errores fueron que debieron alargar el entrenamiento del personaje principal, y un hueco argumental (que pasa lo mismo que en Escuadrón Suicida), y es que literalmente iba a ser el fin del mundo, y ninguno de los Vengadores iba al rescate.

Total, no supera a Deadpool de lo que fue de este año de películas de superheroes, pero es una excelente opción para matar la adrenalina solo o con amigos.


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A good movie

Posted : 9 months, 3 weeks ago on 29 October 2016 07:14

I have to admit it, Marvel keeps impressing me. I mean, I always thought that there will be an overdose of super-hero features (only this year, this movie was the 6th already) and, yet, each time, they come back with some rather obscure character and deliver something really entertaining. And that's exactly what they did with this movie. First of all, visually speaking, it was by far their best movie. I was a little bit worried that they gave the best bits in the trailer but the whole thing was visually really neat. Sure, it was obviously inspired by some other movies like 'Inception' but who cares? Furthemore, even though it was a classic origin story, I thought it worked really well, thanks to a solid performance by Benedict Cumberbatch. Concerning the cast, all the actors involved were fine by the way. It also had to with the fact that, contrary to 'Avengers: Age of Ultron'  or 'Captain America: Civil War', they just focused on maybe 4 or 5 characters which was just so refreshing than to have dozens of characters struggling to get involved in the plot. Finally, it was quite nice that they didn't force the connection with the MCU like they did before in some of their previous movies. Sure, there was some mention to the MCU but it was subtle and it worked fine. Eventually, the only thing preventing this movie from becoming really awesome was the fact that, aside the origin story which was decent, the rest of the plot was actually really generic. I mean, seriously?!? Again another guy who wants to destroy the Earth? When will they finally come up with something else? To be honest, I think the only way to make this genre work on the long term is that they need to scale back. Basically, pretty much right from the start, those super-heroes had to save our planet and, since then, the writers got stuck. I mean, where do go from here? Save the universe? and after that? Anyway, even though it wasn't flawless, it was still a really entertaining flick, I thought it was actually better than the seriously overrated 'Captain America: Civil War' and it is definitely worth a look. 


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