Thursday, 3 November 2016

A Brief Review Of Doctor Strange

Sorry, I know its been a while.

Well, its a Marvel film, do we need to say any more?


You can go now.

Oh, we do, sorry.

Right, Doctor Strange is the latest in the generally very consistent Marvel canon, and one of its smaller scale entries, as its an origin story for a single character. Like last year's Ant-Man, its almost a throwback to the “Phase 1” films, and has a fairly light connection to existing plot threads, excluding a mid-credits sequence and a rather notable name drop. This was probably for the best as this film attempts to place hand-wavy magic into a world of soft sci-fi, a tough sell at the best of times. This film however pulls it off, creating utterly beautiful action sequences that feel like lucid dreams. I do want to see this film again in 3D, I feel it would add to the effect, rather than than be a cheap gimmick, which is high praise from me. Its also a generally slick production with a strong cast, and a general feeling of competency. Benedict Cumberbatch is another great casting choice, fitting into the role as well as Robert Downey Jr. did with Tony Stark, and the beard is a massive boost to the man. The remainder of the cast do well with what they have, the narrative progressing in a solid manner for the genre, and there is no obvious weak point in the entire enterprise. 

This however is not quite the same as saying Doctor Strange is a great film in its own right. Something about it didn't click with me. There is where the comparison to Phase 1 comes back. Those were always entertaining films, but I didn't love any of them until the Avengers assembled. Doctor Strange has so much going with respects to its core concept that its almost surprising it works as well as it does. But we are still in a position where the rules of the world still need to be explained, and this undermines the concept of danger. The formula of the Marvel films, or perhaps just the genre at large, also shows through. Doctor Strange doesn't look like any other Marvel film, including Thor, but it has a similar feel in places, and the same sense of humour. You'd be daft to say this film was identical to say Guardians of the Galaxy or Captain America, but you can pick out common themes. If you'd been inclined to sketch out a plot for this film beforehand based on the trailer, you'd probably have got the specifics wrong, but I wouldn't be surprised if you got the broad strokes. The ending was a surprise, however. Doctor Strange, while quite trippy could have been a lot stranger, perhaps to its benefit. Then again, to misquote someone, you have to have your feet on the ground, before you can build castles in the sky.

And, you'll forgive me if I don't open the can of worms that was casting Tilda Swanson as the Ancient One. She does a good job, but that's a topic for another day.

All this is however is me attempting to draw a line between the merely good, and the exceptional. Doctor Strange is good, and there's nothing wrong with that. While I don't wish to make comparisons with the distinguished competition, this film certainly handled magic a lot better than Suicide Squad did, and remains infinitely more watchable than some films about superheroes released this year.

The Verdict
Doctor Strange is exactly what it looks like, no more, no less, and that's just fine.

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