“Doctor Strange” Review

We’re at a point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where most of the characters have been established and the production company of Marvel Studios is now in cruise control with tossing out new movies every summer while working on finding the best way to combine their seemingly infinite amount of characters into a variety of films in order to raise more ticket stubs. And props to Marvel because they are by far the best at getting people to show up again and again to see their movies because, for the most, they do a decent job of making superhero films.

Of all the superhero films I’ve seen (excluding “The Dark Knight”), I have liked Marvel films the most. The first “Iron Man” film engrossed me when it came out and I fell in love with Tony Stark as a sort of anti-hero that progressed into a semi-anti-hero by the end of the film. I enjoyed the visual wonder of Thor and think that the second Captain America film is one of few sequels that actually manages to surpass the original. But over the years, I’ve grown tired of superhero films.

Many superhero films follow the same exact plotlines, have similar stories, and lack a sort of originality to them that would you find in most other genres of cinema (most being the key word; I’m looking at you horror films). After the release of the first Avenger’s film, I haven’t enjoyed a Marvel film besides “Captain America: Civil War.” The other films I find to be mundane repeats of the same exact thing over and over again and lacking in any new sense of excitement, which is why I was very excited to check out this new Doctor Strange film.

Doctor Strange had a lot of potential to be different for me. Instead of being some person who was born with superpowers or lived in a different realm, he was a regular person who had his life turned upside by a car accident and was forced on this path of self-exploration to give meaning to his life (kind of sounds like Batman doesn’t it?).   While most of the Marvel films deal with the physical world, “Doctor Strange” prides itself on dealing with the unseen world to most humans, working in separate dimensions and involving people casting spells and whatnot. While it may sound kind of silly, I’m not against it because at least it’s something different.

And working with these differing dimensions and laws of physics leads way to some of the most wonderful visuals I’ve seen on a modern film. It takes notes from Inception in the way that it bends buildings as if in a dream like state, with characters adapting to changes in gravity faster than the eye can follow. There’s a multitude of beautiful colors and images that are glorious to look at and make the movie worth seeing all on its own. I can’t give the visuals enough praise.

Sadly though, that’s about where my praises for this film stop. While I love the idea of an anti-hero and think that the arrogant Dr. Strange does have that potential to him, he consistently felt like a poor man’s Tony Stark with his exotic house and fancy playboy lifestyle. Tony Stark is a far superior version of Stephen Strange.

Secondly, despite the film being innovative and mainly working in different dimensions, the film follows the same painfully dull and generic path that every recent Marvel film follows and that makes the film quite boring in places. You know exactly what will happen before it happens and that ruins all of the fun. Also it falls in the typical Marvel pitfall of wanting to be too preachy, specifically about the whole “the world doesn’t revolve around you and saving lives is important” theme. It’s hammered into the audience’s mind again and again by various characters to the point where I want to smash my head against a wall in a similarly repetitive fashion.

Finally, given all the potential for really cool fight scenes that are exemplified through the main arc of the film, the finale is supremely underwhelming. The villain is too one-dimensional of a character for us to have any interest in; we legitimately know nothing about him. Maybe if they had bothered to spend more money on a better screenwriter and less on the visuals we might have had a halfway decent villain and the film would have been more interesting as a result. The run time doesn’t reach over two hours, so there’s more than enough room to add extra dialogue or backstory for characters without risking the film being too long.

Now granted, I will give Marvel credit for also giving us good background knowledge about their main characters and developing evolutionary based arcs for their journeys, which is the primary fault of every DC film since the turn of the century that hasn’t been directed by Christopher Nolan. They do make origin stories at least somewhat interesting, but they are a slave to the box office and their own precious formula, which has become overworked and mundane by this point. While the visuals are masterful to say the least, the story proves to be just too boring at this point in time and Marvel needs to learn to break the rules and be more adventurous if they want to stay relevant in years to come.

Doctor Strange (2016): 2/4 stars


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