Saturday, December 3, 2016

View Log: Doctor Strange

I almost didn't get to see this movie.

It's getting to be that time of year when theatres don't expect people to actually see movies, and I only managed to find a single showing at a single theatre, just because I waited until other family members were available to go with me.

If I had wanted to see Moana, that would have been no problem, since at least two theatres around be have decided to show that exclusively for a while.

No, really. Your choices are Moana or Moana in 3D. And a single showing of A Christmas Story.

But luckily, I managed to see it and I must say that HOLY CRAP THIS IS A GORGEOUS FILM

Spoiler-Free Review
While one could be forgiven for thinking that the movie was going to look like a blend between Thor and Inception, the film has a visual style that expands upon both of those influences while staying true to the psychedelic mindscapes featured in the original Steve Ditko comics.

While yet another origin story might be wearing thin with some audience members at this point, the film has enough in the way of acting talent, character development, clever writing, and amazing visuals to please most viewers.

Though I imagine this movie might not hold up as well on DVD and Blu-Ray, since the visual are meant to be seen on the big screen.

I honestly don't know if the movie is still playing, but if it is, and you haven't seen it, go. Go now. Go watch. Right now.

As for specifics, spoilers ahead!

I have not enjoyed a superhero movie this thoroughly since Deadpool.

The MCU has basically come full circle with the introduction of another bearded smart-aleck who learns humility after a horrible ordeal. While you could easily dismiss this movie as ripping off Iron Man in terms of its protagonist, I think it's important to note that this is entirely in keeping with the original comics. Although few things in this movie do.

I'll save my discussion on racism for another day.

If you cast a white person as the Ancient One, you get accused of whitewashing. If you cast an Asian person as the Ancient One, you get accused of perpetuating stereotypes that Asians are inherently mystical. 


So instead, for now, I'm going to ask one simple question of each aspect of this film. Did it work for me? 

Doctor Strange's Journey: Yes.
Instead of burying himself in his obsession, Strange ends up finding a new purpose apart from his obsession with fixing his hands, unlike Tony Stark, whose new obsession with undoing the mistakes of his past lasts multiple films.

The Casting: Yes.
While Strange's accent may bounce around, Benedict Cumberbatch is a fine addition to the MCU, as is every other actor in this film, from Tilda Swinton to Benedict Wong.

The Timeframe: No.
I really wish Dr. Strange explicitly began earlier in the MCU's history. Not only would his skepticism be less headscratching in the wake of an alien invasion fought off by a Norse god, but it would demonstrate that his studying and learning took place over a good length of time, rather than just having him master spells as soon as the plot was ready for him to.

Luckily, the film doesn't end with Dr. Strange becoming Sorcerer Supreme, having mastered all of magic within a few months. He's still learning the ropes, and only managed to defeat the big bad because of his clever manipulation of an Infinity Stone, rather than simply being the best at all magic. He just has a knack for using the Eye of Agamotto and a photographic memory.

The Villains: Mostly.
Dormammu is the first real all-CGI non-corporeal presence in the MCU, and he seems adequately menacing. Building him up throughout the movie was a good choice. However, Kaecilius was rather disappointing. Yet another villain killed off without realizing his full potential.

Respect to the Source Material: Yes.
This one is what's going to be pretty divisive, I think.

Yes, things were changed. Casting choices, the Eye of Agamotto, yadda yadda. But stuff like that is par for the course for adaptations by this point.  But this film is filled with nods to the source material. Not only is the Wand of Watoomb from the comics mentioned in passing, but you can see Wong even wielding it in the end, along with an unnamed cameo by Nico Minoru's mother and her Staff of One, setting it up for her daughter Nico to use in the upcoming Runaways project.  And apparently, Drumm was the last name of the guy killed in the New York Sanctum, setting the stage for him to advise his brother, Jericho Drumm, better known as Brother Voodoo, from beyond the grave.

For everything about the Doctor Strange mythos that gets changed, there seems to be a nice little nod to the comics to make up for it. And I must say, I'm glad that this movie isn't just another Green Lantern.

Green Lantern was far too devoted to its source material, to the point that it failed to convey necessary information adequately just so it could cram in all the information, like the fact that there are exactly 3600 sectors to the universe, while failing to explain what the heck Parallax is. We don't need an exact number in the opening monologue, we need a coherent plot!

Luckily, Doctor Strange knows what information is important to convey and what isn't, preventing the film from getting bogged down.

For example, when Kaecilius and his followers are dragged away to the Dark Dimension, they can briefly bee seen to become grey, one-eyed monsters. Doctor Strange fans know that they have become "Mindless Ones," while non-comic-fans can still enjoy the movie, since all they need to know is that the bad guys got their comeuppance. They turned into monsters and were cursed to be a part of the Dark Dimension. That's all that's important to the plot, and the ways it's shown in the movie doesn't keep people out of the loop.       

So, yeah. I greatly enjoyed Doctor Strange. It might not be the most unique story they've ever come up with, but I left the theatre very content with what I saw.

How about you? I'd love to hear any thoughts, opinions, or questions you might have in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. I also highly enjoyed this movie, even for Marvel. I think one of my nitpicks is that we never got to see Wong in action with Wand. Bargain scene might one of my favorites in whole MCU.

    One reason why I thought it would be very hard to make movie about Dr Strange is that magic doesn't have rules, so it's hard to write coherent stories when characters have such poorly defined limits. Sure, Iron Man or any SHIELD agent can have on them a gadget that audience isn't aware of at first, but chances that said gadget can for example mind control people or let them walk trough walls is very low. Strange movie did great job giving magic some rules without making so rigid it's hard to call it magic.

    One thing I noticed is that movie had a twist. A change in adaption. You know the one. I'm not talking about Ancient One's gender or race but something related to her. I realized that many comic adaptations have changes like that (CA:WS has SHIELD, IM3 had Mandarin,). I can't help but wonder how often adaptations make change not because it's logical, interesting change, but just to avoid telling the stories that are completely spoiled to actual comic readers.

    I don't mean to say those above examples are automatically bad, but for best example of bad "change just for the twist" I direct to New 52 Mr Freeze who at first seemed to have exactly the same backstory as usual...and then the twist came. Woman he called "wife" was frozen long before he met her and developed unhealthy obsession.

    - Faceless Enigma