The Hippo


Nov 20, 2019








Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange (PG-13)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

By Amy Diaz

Benedict Cumberbatch gets the full superhero treatment — powers, cape and a couple of villains — in Doctor Strange, an exploration of yet another part of the Marvel cinematic universe.

In what feels like a pretty meta discussion of exactly what Doctor Strange is in relation to that universe, the movie does a lot of talking about multiverses. Who are you in this vast multiverse, a character even asks Strange at one point. A guy whose fan base will forgive a lot just for the fun of seeing him on screen, is my guess at an answer.
Dr. Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) is a brilliant neurosurgeon — think sort of a mix of Hugh Laurie on House and Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark. He knows more than anybody else, is willing to take extraordinary risks and is a massive jerk. His ex, fellow doctor Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), might turn to him when all hope seems lost on a patient, but she’s no longer interested in having all of that ego and ambition follow her home.
When Strange is injured in a car accident, however, Christine does try to help him. The damage to his hands means the end of his career but Strange is unwilling to accept that. He sets off on a journey to find what he thinks is a clinic in Nepal that will help him medically. Instead, what he finds is a temple, of sorts, helmed by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). Her discussions about working on his spirit initially sound like hooey to him, but then she shows Strange what they’re really all about: a group that has learned to access a supernatural realm where space and time can be manipulated, where Strange can project himself outside his body and where spells can help this small army of sorcerers protect the globe from magical threats, just as the Avengers protect it from physical ones. 
Threats such as Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), a former student (but of course) who went rogue. He is looking to learn some of the sorcerers’ strongest magic to help give Earth over to Dormammu, a CGI character I thought was the Thanos guy who keeps showing up in Marvel movie post-credits scenes but apparently isn’t. Dormammu’s plan is to, er, eternally freeze-frame the Earth in the Phantom Zone or something. The Ancient One and her sorcerers, including Wong (Benedict Wong) and Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), can stop them with the magical global spirit-world-repelling wi-fi created by the Sanctums, three temple-y type buildings, one each in New York, London and Hong Kong. So naturally Kaecilius and his henchmen are attacking the various Sanctums. 
Though not particularly interested in this wizard-on-wizard war, Strange gets involved in part because, as it turns out, he’s kinda good at this magic business, grasping some of the more difficult, existentially dicier parts of the dark arts. He also gets aided by a swell cape that turns out to be a magical thingamabob, a good sign for any sorcerer.
The cape is apparently sentient and can drag him in the right direction and suggest weaponry. It is also the movie’s best sidekick and most consistent purveyor of comic relief — and comedy in general feels pretty randomly applied in this movie. When the movie isn’t being super-intense, it’s giving us the long-form of the “Wizarding Guide to Exposition and Detailed World Building” lecture. There is a lot of information about mystical la-dee-das and magical whosiwhatsits unnecessarily delivered in this movie. “Because of magic” is a pretty easy way to get around whatever time manipulation or spatial fiddling characters do; adding a bunch of junk about books and ancient spells and what looked like kung fu movie filler to a story like this just makes you feel like you should have waited to see this until you had the ability to fast forward. What humor is available added as an afterthought, as though someone said, “Hey, wait, aren’t these Marvel movies usually kind of light?” and a few “Is this my mantra? No, it’s our Wi-Fi password”-type lines were added. (I will say that even the overly dramatic intensity of this movie is preferable to the for-no-reason grimness of every DC movie I’ve seen lately.)
Benedict Cumberbatch is perfectly fine as Doctor Strange, a character I knew nothing about going in. He isn’t a Chris Pratt-in-Guardians of the Galaxy revelation, but he’s entertaining, as always, and seemed to find his footing as the character by the end of the movie. This, to me, suggests that most of what I found tiresome about this movie — and I did find big chunks of it tiresome — was possibly more about the burdens of the origin-story movie than the character itself. To put it another way, I am more enthusiastic about seeing the further adventures of Doctor Strange than I am about telling you to check out this initial outing. B-
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action throughout, and an intense crash sequence. Directed by Scott Derrickson with a screenplay by Jon Spaihts and Scott Derrickson & C. Robert Cargill, Doctor Strange is an hour and 55 minutes long and distributed by Walt Disney Studios.

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