Comic Book Movie
Meet neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange. He is as egocentric as any politician, yet as clever at his job as any detective. The well-acclaimed British actor Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game, Sherlock) takes the stage in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to depict one of the cleverest caped crusaders within the franchise. He is certainly a delight as always, but it’s the unusual approach to Doctor Strange that may either paralyze you with amazement or scare you away.
His life at this point is pretty normal: go to work, save a life, have a fight with his nagging coworker/girlfriend played by Academy Award nominee Rachel McAdams (Midnight in Paris, Spotlight), cherry pick the patients he wishes to save, and gloat about the spectacular perfection that is his life. That is, until an uncalled for car crash leaves his hands paralyzed with severe nerve damage.
…Which leads him to Nepal, where an Ancient One is said to be there with knowledge of spiritual healing. It’s not in his comfort zone but hey? What has he got to lose?
So he goes under spiritual training by a cult, receiving far more than he bargained for. Next thing he knows, he is dawned with the abilities to remove his spirit from his material body, create portals in midair, and fly with the powers of a levitating cape, and all in an effort to save the world from an outer demon.
My biggest problem with this highly entertaining (and funny) addition to the MCU is its swaying away from the familiar gadgets and aliens of the previous films and more into an out-of-place exploration of man’s relationship with the occult. It’s not odd to say, especially considering that they do not do a very good job at portraying it.
Normally, if there was a cult such as this one who depend on old spiritual tradition, why are they of all different races around the world? We have one White woman, one Black man, and one Asian, and several others who are from places I cannot possibly pinpoint. It may not matter to you, but this really hurts the film’s believability.
Although I do give director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) credit for telling the story as if it were a real Buddhist or Hindu legend, while at the same time a part of our own modern culture. He does this best through the most obvious yet brilliantly executed way of combining the two: colorful trips through the spiritual universe that wows you off guard, especially when viewed behind 3-D glasses. While not in the infinite realms of the nonmaterialistic universe, Dr. Strange and his comrades fight against the assassins of time and space through showcases of city environments spinning and losing form within itself, as if you’re watching Inception though a kaleidoscope.
Older traditions of Hindu training are also exploited here in the same fashion done by The Matrix: Dr. Strange is thrown to the top of Mt. Everest to test how quickly he can form a portal back to base. It would generate shrieks of joy from all anime fans, but it later turns out to be a missed chance of character development, which leads into this film’s biggest problem…
With something as controversial and delicate as occult practices driving the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I doubt there could be a reasonable way to do something like this under Marvel’s wing perfectly. I do appreciate the risks that they have been taking to be different with each of their films (just compare and contrast Guardians of the Galaxy with Captain America: Civil War for a minute). But frankly, some risks are not worth taking. It was worth it to create the mind-bending kaleidoscopic fight sequences, but when Marvel’s name is attached, I do not believe that it would help with their branding.
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Doctor Strange. Marvel. Web. <http://marvel.com/doctorstrange>.
NICKDOLL. DR. STRANGE Trailer #2: Marvel Drops Acid and Looks Through a Kaleidoscope! Digital image. Breaking Geek. Publisher, 23 Jul 2016. Web. <https://breakinggeek.com/2016/07/23/dr-strange-trailer-2-marvel-drops-acid-and-looks-through-a-kaleidoscope/>.