Saturday, February 17, 2018

Doctor Strange (2016)

I realized I never wrote a review of Doctor Strange when it first came out, so thought I'd write about it now for Hamlette's We Love Superheroes week.

I still consider The Avengers (2012) the best of the Marvel movies to date.  It is as close to perfection as a superhero movie can get, and, from 2012 until late last year, I would have named it my favorite.  But I've finally accepted that my favorites are not static.  They change over time, and for once, I've completely burnt out a movie so badly that it has to drop off my favorite list... I just have no need to see The Avengers again for about ten years. 

So, that opened up room for a new movie to slip in.  That movie is Doctor Strange.

There will be spoilers...

I only saw Doctor Strange once when it was in the theater.  Unfortunately for it, Fantastic Beasts came out, and then Rogue One, and that was that...  Nothing could compete with Rogue One!  I quite liked Doctor Strange on first viewing, but wouldn't have thought it would shoot to the top of my Marvel movie favorite list.  The things I love most about this movie are the things I still love: the actors and the characters they bring to life, the beauty of the film, the costumes, the music... and the Cloak of Levitation still steals every moment it's in.

Every since I read Flatland by Edwin Abbott as a young thing, I have been fascinated by dimensions.  So this movie, dealing with different dimensions is right up my alley. I love the visuals and the mirror dimension.  I love things that deal with time, so Strange's time loop solution just makes me grin with glee.

Most Marvel movies are extremely well cast, and this one just hits every note right for me. I have to love the characters in order to love a movie, and I really love these characters.  Did so from the first viewing.  Benedict Cumberbatch is delightful as Doctor Stephen Strange, so full of himself in the beginning, only looking for medical cases that will showcase his own brilliance, not even really understanding that he's saving lives.  When the tables are turned and he's the one in need of medical aid, when Western medical science fails to offer him a cure, he heads to Tibet where he discovers there is far more to the universe than he remotely thought possible.  Watching him light up at the thought of learning something new, watching him study and study, reading every book he can get his hands on... I love it.  I love his reaction when he realizes there's a lot more to what Kamar-Taj does than just teach and learn.

Kaecilius - Mads Mikkelsen looking fabulous and taking no prisoners.  Mads is one of my favorite actors right now, so I absolutely love him here in his snazzy outfit, with that great hair, and owning every action scene.  There's a lot more to his character than makes it onto the theatrical release, but even without the backstory, they offer enough in his dialogue to understand what he wants and what he's striving for.  I would love this movie for him alone.

Tilda Swinton is perfect as the Ancient One.  To my great surprise, she's very nearly my favorite part of the movie, the teacher and protector. I want to study under her.  Her final scene in the movie is one of my favorite moments in any movie, with time slowed to a crawl, as she still, after all the centuries she's been alive, watches the world in wonder and awe and tries to impart a last lesson on Strange.  We all have different themes that appeal to each of us.  This is one of the things I love about Marvel's universe, they can explore different themes, so there's something for everyone.  The importance of death and how it makes life more important is a big one for me.  So is using power for the right reasons.  It is the Ancient One who both talks about and shows this, and I love her.  The way she anxiously waits for Strange to figure out how to use his sling ring, turning her fan over and over in her hands, the way she still tries to talk reasonably to Kaecilius.  The smooth, graceful, and experienced way she fights.  She embodies the soul of this movie and if Mads wasn't in this movie, I would still love it because of her.

I love Mordo, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor.  He sees the world and the Ancient One a certain naive way, trusting and unpractical.  He's unwilling to break the laws of Nature for any reason, even when that's the only way to save the world. I am sad he's going down a darker path now, but am looking forward to the next movie, to see how his character develops.

Benedict Wong is great fun as Wong, the librarian.  Never cracking a smile until he cracks up at the end.  I hope he gets a big part of the next movie as well.

One of the things I love about this movie is the main theme for Doctor Strange by Michael Giacchino.  Music is extremely important to me.  As opposed to most movies (not just Marvel movies), I could actually remember the Doctor Strange theme after I left the theater.  I could even remember it weeks later without having re-seen the movie or listening to the score.  Hallelujah!  It's a fabulous theme, just right for this movie, and I love it.  Right now, I couldn't sing you a note of any Captain America, Thor, or Iron Man 1 and 3 movies.  I got crickets.  (John Debney's score for Iron Man 2 is one of my favorite Marvel scores, so it gets a lot of play time.)  I loved the Ant-Man theme too, and could remember that one when I left the theater, but couldn't tell you how it goes now.  (That's another reason Ant-Man is high on my favorites list.)

I just really enjoy this film.  There's nothing particularly new about the man-falls-from-wealth-and-position-and-finds-himself-again, but the plot is handled very well.  I love the training scenes, I love Strange forced to step up before he thinks he's ready.  I love him finding a solution to with his time loop -- by losing over and over, and therefore winning.  I love the Cloak of Levitation saving his life repeatedly.  I love the New York sanctum.

Yep, so this is a long-winded, disjointed way of saying that, basically, this movie simply hits a bunch of my Sweet Spot map items and pushes the buttons that make me happy.  I'm pleased to name it my current favorite superhero movie.


  1. have you seen those 'honest trailers' at screen junkies on their youtube channel? those videos tells you exactly what is wrong with a movie with spoilers but it sometimes gets me to watch and sometimes it puts me off a movie, like 'doctor strange' but now reading your review, I'm going to put 'doctor strange' on my maybe-watch-later list.

    have a lovely day.

  2. I still have not seen this film yet, but I did enjoy Doctor Strange's cameo in the latest Thor movie from last fall, though.