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Doctor Strange

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Doctor Stephen Strange is a brilliant but arrogant neurosurgeon who loses the use of his hands in a car accident. Bereft of his life’s purpose, he spirals into a near-manic obsession with trying to fix the nerves in his once-steady hands. He ends up in Kathmandu, under the tutelage of the Ancient One. But instead of finding healing, Strange finds himself caught up in a mystical battle to protect the world from a group called the Zealots, and a powerful being called Dormammu, who hails from the Dark Dimension.

Rating: ★★★½

The Good

  • The visuals! Many critics were raving about it and now that I’ve seen it, I get what they mean. It reminded me of Inception but three times crazier. Buildings fold in on themselves, environments mirrored, roads loop over and around each other – it felt at times like the characters had walked into a constantly-moving kaleidoscope.
  • I just really enjoyed the magic aspect. I do like fantasy after all. Most of the character fights were magic-based, and I liked the idea of fights taking place in a “mirror dimension” where they can’t affect the real physical world (but still run the risk of really being injured or dying). The scuffle between Strange and the Zealot guy take took place in the “astral dimension” whilst Dr. Palmer was trying to keep Strange’s body alive was intriguing to watch. I thought, “Hey, that’s a good way for the production crew to save on having to deal with rearranging the sets when characters knock things over since nothing in the material world is really affected when two spirits are fighting.
    Also interesting were the Ancient One’s “magic fans.” It resulted in some rather sleek and Oriental-ish fight choreography for the character. Bad guy Kaecilius and the Zealots conjured magical weapons for themselves that were basically barely-visible blades, which was unusual.
    I sure hope the effects houses who worked on it got paid well because this movie is nothing without that.
  • This scene:

Mordo shows Strange to his room and hands him a card with the word “shamballa” on it.

“What’s this? Is this my mantra?”

Mordo gives him a look and says, “It’s the wifi password. We’re not savages.”

  • Casting. There was so much furore over the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton as Stephen Strange and the Ancient One, but despite the accusations of whitewashing looming over this movie, I really enjoyed the cast. Maybe it’s because I never read the comics and have no attachment to the original character. But from pictures I’ve seen of the comic book character, I thought Cumberbatch was a pretty good choice.
  • The Cloak of Levitation was a total scene-stealer. It reminded me of the Carpet in Disney’s Aladdin. Doesn’t need to talk or have a face or limbs, it just flaps around and interacts with the characters in very amusing ways. The scene where Strange is trying to go one way and the cloak is telling him to go the other way is hilarious! So well done.
  • The way in which Strange bested Dormammu was inventive. I did not expect it and thought it was rather clever.

 

The Bad Not-so-good
(Nothing in this movie was outright bad…)

  • If you look at it from an emotional/personal character angle, Stephen Strange’s origin story here isn’t so very different from Tony Stark’s or Thor’s. All of them came from a place where they thought themselves superior to everyone, and by the end of it they’ve reformed, though Stephen Strange and Thor did appear a lot more humbled than Tony Stark did. (In this sense, Captain America was the really unique one.)
  • The overall storyline is predictable. When the Ancient One showed up to take over from Strange and Mordo in the battle against Kaecilius and the Zealots, I instantly knew she wasn’t going to survive the movie. A pity, but as stories go, usually the protector/mentor figure has to go in order to open up opportunities for the protagonist so that’s nothing unexpected.
  • While I was impressed by the execution of the visual effects for the most part, I wasn’t keen on the designs of the Dark Dimension. It was… Not very interesting. Weird psychedelic colours and strange floating things but that’s about the only impression I had of it.
  • The part where the London Sanctum is attacked and Strange is thrown into the New York Sanctum was a little confusing to me. I thought that Strange had been flung into the London Sanctum, until the Ancient One turns up later and talks about the London one being destroyed, and Strange defending the NY place. This might be because I couldn’t distinguish the New York street look from the London one at a glance.
  • The Kamar-Taj librarian Wong didn’t get enough to do! I thought the character was interesting but he barely even got a fight scene. Disappointing.

 

Other observations

  • It was a little strange hearing Benedict Cumberbatch use an American accent instead of his usual crisp British accent. I think he sounds more impressive with his natural British accent. (In my mind, Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston are so completely linked to the way they speak that when they put on other accents, it takes something away from them… though so far I think Hiddleston does better with the American accent than Cumberbatch does.)
  • When they started talking about three Sanctums apart from the Kathmandu base – one in New York, one in London, and one in Hong Kong – I wondered: Why don’t people who build these mysterious strongholds ever try building them literally in the middle of nowhere – like Antarctica? Why construct them in heavily populated areas? Especially when you have magical powers and can open portals to any other place in the world. It’s not like you need a grocery store literally around the corner from you. You can conjure a portal and go to any grocery store anywhere…
    And why was the New York Sanctum so deserted? The Hong Kong one seemed to have lots of people in it. I may never know the answers to these questions. haha
  • Michael Giacchino scored the music. Nice work from him, as usual.
  • I liked the mid-credits scene! It makes me very excited to watch Thor: Ragnarok.
  • Sudden realisation: WAIT. Was the little thing Strange did when he tried to pop the collar of the Cloak of Levitation a nod to Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, who often wears a long coat with a popped collar?? And the Cloak would have none of it. hehehe

I left the cinema feeling a lot more satisfied than I did after watching Captain America: Civil War. (I really would have liked Civil War better if it had been labelled as an Avengers movie instead.) Good job on this, Marvel.

Got anything to add or say? :D