I guess there is no such thing as ‘Superhero Movie Fatigue’? Or Marvel just managed to get the formula down. It is quite impressive how they do it. I think for two years now I’m hearing people moaning about all the comic book movies and how it is just too much. And still, whenever a new Marvel or DC comic movie is released… people go see them and the films keep making tons of money. I’m part of the problem. Well, I haven’t seen all of them on the big screen. But most of them. And one thing can be said… most of these films are good.
After Ant-Man we again have one of the lesser known superheroes to get his debut. Doctor Strange is about Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), an egomaniac, narcissistic neurosurgeon who lives a pretty high society life in New York City. One evening, on the way to a party, he gets into a car accident. He gets out pretty bruised but the worst thing is the fact that his hands are crippled. After multiple operations his hands are at least kind of working again. But getting back into his profession is pretty much a no go. Of course he’s devastated by that and goes into a rage mode that does not really help keeping friendships alive. By accident he learns about a guy who mysteriously managed to overcome being paraplegic. He looks for him and after a brief talk he learns where the guy found the power to fix himself. Stephen embarks on a trip to Kathmandu, Nepal to learn specifics on how he may be able to heal his hands with the same power that helped the other man he saw earlier. In Nepal Stephen finds the Kamar-Taj. Within that temple he meets the Ancien One (Tilda Swinton). He learns techniques that open doors to other dimensions and allow even things like the manipulation of time itself. The visuals we get to see there are really good and definitely worth the additional price for 3d. While all this stuff is happening we also see how Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) is trying to destory three Sanctums that hold up a mystical shield, that covers the Earth and protects it from bad stuff from other dimensions. Kaecilius wants to break that shield and enable an almighty being called Dormammu to enter our dimension in exchange for immortality. Soon Stephen is in the middle of trying to stop Kaecilius. Even if that means to use powers that not all of the warriors, who fight along him, approve.
So much for a kind of sort of plot summary. The movie is paced really well and never feels boring. It’s just under two hours long, which is greatly appreciated. However! It is missing some parts when Stephen is in the temple and learning about all the mystical powers. We just get told he read like 20 books. We are not told how much time he actually spends in that temple. When he’s back in New York it seems like it wasn’t more than two weeks since he went away. The film needed one or two scenes that showed time passing. It would also help to kind of visualize his character transformation. He does not completely lose his arrogance but he learns to take a step back and evaluate things when necessary.
The movie also falls into typical Marvel movie traps. We, once again, don’t have a really strong villain. The villain (Mads Mikkelsen) in this movie sort of kind of just appears right at the start of the film and doesn’t come with too much of a backstory. Mads Mikkelsen nonetheless tries to get the most out of the character. But even an actor of his caliber can’t overplay the fact that it’s just another stand-in character for ‘bad guy’. Considering that these movies are rather long in general I wonder why stuff like Stephen’s time in the temple feels so short. They could have easily added another 5 minutes that show Stephen’s process of changing in character a little better.
If you have seen the trailer then you know that this movie visually is quite a stunner. It’s a rare case where the visuals really make the movie without hurting it. The abstract, kaleidoscopic looking cityscapes, constantly changing look and appearance, are amazing to watch. We got a glimpse of that in Christopher Nolan’s ‘Inception’ movie. Dr. Strange turn up these effects to 11. You almost miss the action sequences themselves while watching the visual stuff that going on around them. It’s on the brink of visual overkill but it also works. Keeping the balance surely wasn’t easy and I have to applaud the skill that went into directing the VFX action sequences. Because of that the film is a rare case that works really well in 3d.
Despite its flaws I was amazed how fast the film was over. Like I said earlier, the film is very well paced and time flies. Benedict Cumberbatch manages it to fit flawlessly into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it’s hinted that he definitely has a place side by side along the characters we already know.
PS: Did anyone else notice some similarities to the Star Trek (the reboot) musical score? I mean, it’s the same composer.