Review: Doctor Strange

If the final superhero feature of 2016 had a mission to enchant audiences with its star-studded cast and dazzling psychedelic kaleidoscope visual effects, then Doctor Strange succeeded in its intent.

strange

Image by Marvel Studios

Benedict Cumberbatch stars as a smug neurosurgeon named Stephen Strange who thinks he has all the answers until a car wreck shatters his livelihood. He discovers a way to restore the use of his hands not through medicine, but through the mystic arts when he travels to Tibet and meets a sect of sorcerers led by a mysterious being called The Ancient One, who expands the concepts of his reality by introducing him to other realities beyond his wildest dreams.

I was excited about the cast of this movie because Doctor Strange is perhaps one of the most talented cast of actors Marvel has ever put together. Unfortunately these actors, I felt were way too big for these roles and the performances of Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Benedict Wong and Rachel McAdams, are adequate, the actors themselves were way too big for these characters, who barely scratch the surface of their comic counterparts.

Director Scott Derrickson with screenwriters Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill did what they could to make Doctor Strange as much of an enjoyable Marvel Studios experience as possible and as far as the film goes visually, it is worthwhile however the writing of Doctor Strange feels forced; the characters are rendered weak and one-dimensional because they are part of a plot that doesn’t elevate them, that tries too hard to be funny in some places and the action itself is fleeting.

I will say though that the plot, though shallow, does enough to establish the title character is this ever expanding Marvel Universe but ultimately, I was uncomfortable watching Doctor Strange; maybe it was the seat I selected due to this stupid “select-a-seat” option when I bought my ticket but Doctor Strange just felt awkward to me while I was watching it.

Visually and technically, I think Doctor Strange was aces. Ben Davis’ cinematography and Sabrina Pilsco and Wyatt Smith’s editing worked very well in this film, I particularly liked the time loop sequences with the apple and Dormmamu, those were very clever. The kaleidoscope visual effects were dazzling; watching the mirror dimensions distort and bend the streets of New York almost induced a vertigo episode in me; I’d recommend seeing this film in 3D.

I also liked the costumes of Alexandra Byrne and the makeup for making the characters look as close to their comic counterparts as possible. Michael Giacchino’s music did what it could to give this picture as much dimension as possible but it somehow faded to the background because the visuals took the appeal of this movie more than anything else.

I wanted Doctor Strange to wow me and the formula to do so was there and yet I wasn’t practically impressed. Looking back, I think Doctor Strange was all smoke and mirrors and no substance.

What’s disappointing is that this is the last superhero spectacle of 2016 and in my summation, the superhero features of 2016 were all bombs, except one and that one reached heights only a select few in its genre could. Doctor Strange is supposed to be a sorcerer, a master of magic but in order for magic to work, a degree of deception is necessary and I could read the spells of Doctor Strange as easily as I could read a traffic sign.

There was no deceptions or secrets or surprises that Doctor Strange had to offer me and I think that this is a cinematic equivalent to a parlor trick. There was nothing even remotely supreme about this sorcerer or how this film was put together and while it is fun to look at, the results leave me resolute in the idea that Doctor Strange could have been a lot better considering the parties involved in the production and the audience as well.

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