Doctor Strange

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Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) receives its second film with Doctor Strange.  One of the lesser known heroes (as far as mainstream knowledge of superheroes go) Doctor Strange is a bridge for the MCU from the known villains, factions, and heroes to new and more “mystical” unknown villains, factions and heroes.  As the Avengers will need time to regroup and prepare for their eventual clash with Thanos, the forthcoming Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 and Doctor Strange will reset the stage for the coming conflict in “Avengers: Infinity War”.

A few words about “Doctor Strange”:

  1. Strange pacing (no pun intended) – there was no marking of the passage of time.  From the time doctor strange was in training to the time he mastered his craft seemed especially fast.  Some of this was explained by his superior intellect, however in some ways this felt like cheating.  This made portions of the movie feel rushed.  By the time we reach the main conflict, the film does not feel like it got to this point naturally.
  2. Benedict Cumberbatch played his role well, but did nothing new. – a spin on his typical take of being brilliant as is the case in most of his roles.  He was more arrogant than usual in this, but with a heart of gold as is standard with marvel heroes.  This shtick is pretty familiar coming from him, however what made it better was imagining his interactions with the rest of the folks in the MCU.  He will fit right in.
  3. Stark change in genre – Typically Marvel movies are action/adventure films with a touch of fantasy.  Sure there are portals, talismans, stones and other mcguffins however these are all typically more seasoning than sustenance.  Doctor Strange falls deeper into the category of Fantasy/Adventure, where much of the plot is driven by the mysticism.
  4. Excellent special effects – Imagine if all of the coolest portions of the movie ‘Inception’ that had to do with bending time and space were used over and over as a method of physical combat.  Between this, and the brilliant colors and time moving backwards, this film visually is stunning.  Watching these scenes was very enjoyable.
  5. Sets up for next phase well – This film does a good job of expanding the universe.  With some of rules set by what is established in Thor, and Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange builds larger on this theme by setting rules in the “multiverse”.  Routinely using the portals they create and artifacts they use for battle, Doctor Strange gives a glimpse into where the MCU is going.  Much of the universe has been driven by physical actions and characters fighting back physical forces, however Doctor Strange doubles down on the mystical doors opened by Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy.
  6. Forgettable conflict – It almost didn’t feel like a conflict much as obligatory first level challenge for the new hero.  Even the bad guys weren’t completely fleshed out as much as they were placeholders standing in place as stereotypical movie conflict.  By the end of the film this becomes unimportant as what is most important is introducing a new direction for the MCU.
With all that being said, the biggest problem that this movie faced was that it didn’t necessarily need to be a feature length film.  Perhaps it would have been better served as a limited series on Netflix or as a backdoor pilot on Marvel’s Agents of Shield.  (although the budget cut would have affected the visual effects).  Overall a solid summer film, albeit opening in November which is always a breath of fresh air among mostly art films vying to contend in Oscar season.  Take your kids, but be warned there are a few scenes that may not be easily understood by young eyes.  However if they can handle Harry Potter this shouldn’t be a problem for them.  3 of 5 stars.
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