By Michael Kaye
Doctor Strange (Review)
Well, it looks like so far November's off to a good start. Trolls turned out to be pretty great, and word on the street is that Hacksaw Ridge is arguably one of the best of the year. But for now, this is the review I know you've all been patiently waiting for. We are now 14 films deep into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and yet we still haven't even scratched the surface in terms of possibilities. That's what Scott Derrickson has brought us with Doctor Strange.
Here's the story. After his career is destroyed, a brilliant but arrogant surgeon gets a new lease on life when a sorcerer takes him under his wing and trains him to defend the world against evil.
This movie was amazing, and now that I've gotten to see it twice (a tradition I've started with Batman v Superman), I can firmly secure its place in my top 5 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's still not perfect, and the problems I had before are still the problems I have now, but the good stuff stands out much more upon multiple viewings. Here are my positives and negatives.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, the cast is amazing. Benedict Cumberbatch was born to play this role. He's an egotistical jackass, but slowly transitions into the Sorcerer Supreme we all know and love from the pages of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. I thought the friendship between him and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo was very well handled, with the ending leading to so many great potential story lines down the road. Tilda Swinton is a goddamn chameleon; she could be playing the phonebook and her performance would be totally believable. As for Mads Mikkelsen, he's intimidating enough as the villainous Kaecilius, even if the movie doesn't quite give him enough time to shine. But my favorite character aside from the main protagonist has to be Benedict Wong as... Wong.
Everything you've heard about the visuals is absolutely true! It really does feel like this movie was ripped right from the pages of the comic, and Scott Derrickson's horror sensibilities fit this universe like a glove! I was also just impressed with how he handled the action scenes, which were fun and inventive. Unfortunately I have yet to see the movie in IMAX and/or 3D, but as long as you see this on the largest screen possible at your local multiplex, it'll be enough to appreciate the masterfully crafted visuals. 2016 is turning out to be a surprisingly competitive year for Best Visual Effects at the Oscars, and in case you've forgotten, we still haven't seen Rogue One, Passengers or Assassin's Creed.
The dialogue, written by John Spaihts, Robert C. Cargill and Dan Harmon, was fantastic. Harmon, best known for shows like Community and Rick & Morty, injected the right amount of humor to ground the story and make all the supernatural elements more digestible. Some people might say he went a little overboard, but I thought he found the right balance. During my second viewing of the film, I found myself enjoying a great deal of the more quiet scenes, such as Strange meeting Jonathan Pangborn, all of the scenes in the hospital with Christine Palmer, and the Ancient One's final speech in the astro dimension.
Finally, Michael Giacchino composed the score, and you guys should know by now how I feel about his work. Marvel's been getting flack recently for not having very memorable scores, but there's no way I'm going to forget this one, which sounds like it's inspired by a blend of Queen, early Pink Floyd, and his biggest influence, John Williams. Speaking of which, I'm glad he finally landed a Star Wars gig later this year with Rogue One, even at the expense of Alexandre Desplat.
In my original review, I qualified my only two problems with the movie being the runtime and the not-so-threatening nature of the actual Big Bad of the movie, Dormammu. The difference I felt seeing the film a second time was that because I know everything that happens, it leaves room for me to appreciate the good stuff. I still think this movie could have used at least 10-15 more minutes to let some of the best moments breathe, and in that time we could have seen Kaecilius developed more. Also, the more I've given it thought, the more validity I've given to Scott Mendelson's comparison to Green Lantern, in terms of the basic skeleton of the plot and the appearance of the Big Bad. But remember, the major difference is that everything else in Doctor Strange was awesome, while everything aside from Hal Jordan in Green Lantern was lame.
P.S. I shouldn't have to tell you this, but every single time I'm at the movies I see people leaving before the credits end. STOP DOING THAT! We're 14 movies in; you should know by now that the movie doesn't stop until after the credits, and these ones in particular are especially important for the future of the MCU.
Overall, Doctor Strange may have the Marvel formula down pat, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing, as long as the formula is layered with incredible visual effects, pitch perfect casting, and probably one of my new favorite scores from Michael Giacchino. I hope this movie makes a killing at the box office this weekend, beating out Thor: The Dark World for best first weekend in November.
Now I want to hear from you guys. Have you seen Doctor Strange, and if so what did you think? Also, what are you most looking forward to in future MCU installments? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, and stay tuned for my next review, where it seems like Mel Gibson is making a huge comeback with the potential Oscar winner Hacksaw Ridge!