Reel Geek Review: Doctor Strange (Spoilers)

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Marvel Studios has been around for 8 years now, and in this time, they’ve completely revamped and rebooted what it means to be a comic book movie.  It used to be, just a summer cash grab, let’s make some action figures and multiple costumes and make some money.    And while, yes, there is a bit of that as well, in the past 8 years Marvel has helped making geeky things cool and open to the public.  So much so that DC also has a fledgling cinematic universe of their own, and a quite popular one on tv.  There’s comic book shows on tv most days of the week now, in prime time no less.  Which is amazing, as a life long comic book fan.  Even more so is that we’re getting more comic book accurate storylines.  No more Galactus is a a giant space cloud bs.  Well, less of a chance of that anyway.

But the film we’re here to talk about today is Marvel’s latest, Benedict Cumberbatch is…Doctor Strange.

Now,  my girlfriend and I saw this movie in IMAX 3D, which I would have to say is the best way to fully enjoy this movie as it is right now.  Feel I should preface this review with that.  Right from the new and improved Marvel Studios logo you’re in for a treat.  I absolutely geeked out over just the studio logo sequence, as we get a look first at comics, then scripts, and then a few seconds of all of our favorite heroes from the MCU.   Very cool, and I couldn’t have done it better myself.

The movie itself is an origin story, which is set sometime after the events of Civil War, as it was established during Doctor Strange’s car conversation with his assistant trying to find him a new case, something interesting, very similar to the tv show House, which kind of also informs me on the accent that Benedict chose to do Doctor Strange as, now that I think of it.  The case he’s referring to on the phone involves helping James “War Machine” Rhodes walk again after the fall he took in the airport scene of Civil War.

As us comic book fans know and well, everyone else from the marketing, we know that Strange gets in a car accident, ruining the use of his hands, which kills his career as a neurosurgeon, and he finds himself searching in the Himalayas for a cure, after hearing of a mysterious person called The Ancient One, who can work miracles.

Once he arrives, he finds himself in the company of Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiafor- 12 Years a Slave)  who takes him to the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton-Hail Caeser) whom, after rejecting him, soon teaches him the ways of the mystic, and us as well, introducing magic into the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the first time.

There of course, has to be conflict here, and we get that in the form of rogue sorcerer Caecilius (Mads Mikkelsen-Hannibal) and his group of Dormammu worshippers, who of course wish to unmake existence.   So, after a training montage or two, we’re ready for the action.

I really had a blast watching this movie, though I don’ think it to be this perfect film that other critics have been comparing it too.  Though, I suppose, let’s first start out with what works here.  The acting is all fantastic in this movie.  I’m glad that they based Strange’s character off of like a Greg House type crossed with his more recent comics incarnations, as the older Doctor Strange characterization was a bit stuffy for my tastes.  Great stories, but the character was not one to crack a joke, as is Cumberbatch’s role here.  The humor worked well for me, except in one spot where there was a dramatic bit with Strange getting his cape, and then they throw a joke in that kind of killed that moment for me.  I loved the  chemistry that he has with Rachel Mcadams (playing love interest of sorts Christine Palmer) and with him, Mordo, and Wong (Benedict Wong), that all works very well.  And the love interest story isn’t fully relied upon to carry the movie, it’s just an element in the story, no damsel in distress scene as all the comic book movies used to have, which I loved.

Mads Mikkelsen does a decent job in playing his villain as well, usually the MCU has weak villains as their downfall, but they give him a bit more to do, which I liked, not too much of course, but they are getting better at developing villains.  Don’t know why this is so hard for them to do as a studio. It’s been 8 years and 14 movies.  And they have like one great villain, who’s not even really seen as such, and that’s Loki.

Also, I loved the whole scene with Dormammu near the end, as he’s always been one of my favorite Doctor Strange villains, and to see him on the big screen, in a different look, but still awesome, was fantastic.

Now for what didn’t quite work, the pacing felt a bit off in places, and I’m still not sure when this movie is actually set, as they kind of training montage through a bunch of stuff.  A lot of time is spent developing why he’s there, and then they get there and it’s like montage, training stuff, you’re the best, now here’s the bad guy to cause trouble so we can wrap this movie up.   The score, which I first heard the end credits song of a few weeks ago (as you can also read about on the site) was not what I was expecting off of that end credits song, this trippy,  Moody Blues esque jazzy song, and the rest of the movie sounds like outtakes from composer Michael Giacchino’s Star Trek score.   I guess it’s not too big a fault, as even 90% of John Williams music sounds identical, save for his iconic themes for characters.   But after hearing that end credits track I was expecting something revolutionary, and found myself listening to generic superhero score.

Some of the jokes fell a bit forced to me, as it seemed like they were trying to be too funny, when they didn’t need to be.  And a sense of the timing of the movie felt off, like how is he supposed to become this master sorcerer in a few months or a year?  It would have worked better if the movie was set early on in the MCU around Iron Man 2 timeframe or so, and then building up to present day, that would have fit better for me.    Other than that there’s not really too much bad to say about this movie.

I loved a few of the easter eggs hidden in the movie as well, as I looked up on IMDB and saw that some of the other sorcerors included in the training center were Daniel Drumm (who later in the comics gets murdered and his brother Jericho Drumm becomes the hero known as Brother Voodoo) and also Tina Minoru (mother of one of the Runaways heroes, Nico Minoru) that one I found really interesting, as they are developing a Runaways series for Hulu, hopefully this will tie in at some point.  I’m hoping that with the last post credits line of “Too many sorcerors”, that the sequel focuses on the now evil Mordo and some of the other mystics of the Marvel Universe.  Maybe newly introduced characters like Medico Mistico or The Wu?  One can hope.

All in all despite a few flaws, this is still a fantastic adventure of a movie with great performances, and even better visual effects and be sure to stay past both credit sequences, leaving after one is a rookie move, and you’re better than that.    **** out of Five Stars.

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