Thursday, October 27, 2016

'Doctor Strange' Is Wonderfully Trippy, and Benedict Cumberbatch Is Utterly Fantastic

Long before an official casting, even before an official shortlist, Benedict Cumberbatch had been my top choice to play Doctor Strange if a movie should be made (it was mostly due to my fandom for Sherlock).  I remember posting about my preference for Cumberbatch twice in my Facebook wall.  So when it actually happened, it was my “most delightfully surprised fan moment” at that point (only to be surpassed when it was announced that Marvel and Sony had finally reached an agreement to bring Spidey to the MCU).

Finally, around two years after Cumberbatch was officially announced for the role, Doctor Strange is here.  And it’s awesome!
Look, I understand that most of my enthusiasm for it is likely due to me being a big fan of Marvel Comics and Benedict Cumberbatch.  But I genuinely had a great time with this movie.  I had a smile on my face – completely transfixed – during the entire movie.

Doctor Strange perfectly adapts the trippy, mystical feel of its source material, and balances it well with the established tone and plot requirements of an MCU production.

The magic in the movie isn’t exactly as glorious as Harry Potterian spells, or as poetic and colorful as those utilized in the original comics, but its distinctive aesthetics mixed with martial arts do result into spectacular magic-centric fight sequences.  There are also many surreal reality-warping sequences, including ones that require eye-popping cityscape-bending visuals that look like Inception on an acid trip.  If nothing else, this movie is a visual treat.
As an origin story for another MCU hero, this is the best since Iron Man.  Now, I think I had also said that about Ant-Man, but it’s honestly truer with Doctor Strange.  In a hypothetical scenario wherein no MCU movie exists before Doctor Strange, it’s as great of a starting point as Iron Man to build a shared universe franchise upon, regardless of its weirdness.  It’s that solid and delightful.

Lastly, Benedict Cumberbatch is quite fantastic as Dr. Stephen Strange.  In playing the character, he showcases the same charisma and dedication I’ve constantly seen him inject in all his roles since encountering him for the first time in Sherlock.  As a comic book fan, I like Doctor Strange, but he isn’t really among my most favorite comic book characters (to be honest, it was only when he joined the New Avengers that I started really paying attention to him in the comics).  But because of Cumberbatch’s portrayal, I’m starting to lean on the character as my most favorite comic book movie character.
But even with all the terrific things about Doctor Strange, it isn’t perfect.  First, the part where he is learning to become a sorcerer isn’t as “earned” and well-developed as I want it to be.  I didn’t feel he struggled much.  In fact, in portraying that aspect, I think the 2007 direct-to-video animated movie Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme did it better.  Second, due to the movie’s nature, the plot is confusing at times.   And I feel that if I ever try to think hard about it, I will surely find plot holes.  Good thing about it is that I’m not compelled to do so, since I enjoyed it so much that I’m very much willing to let them slide.  Third, the dialogue and characterizations get distractingly inconsistent and ridiculous at times.  But same with the plot holes, I can let them slide.

Doctor Strange is a wonderful addition to Marvel’s movie collection.  It’s not free of flaws, but there are so much more things to like and praise about.   It’s genuinely great.  In fact, this is looking to be a top five MCU movie of all time in my book.

Miscellaneous musings (with some SPOILERS!!!):
  • Aside from Doctor Strange, Benedict Cumberbatch also volunteered to do the mo-cap for Dormammu, the big bad of the movie.  I guess after playing Smaug, he has developed a fondness for doing motion capture performances.
  • Seriously, Cumberbatch is really awesome in this movie.  He was a perfect casting choice.  He’s as winning as Dr. Stephen Strange as Robert Downey, Jr. is as Tony Stark.
  • Can’t wait for the two Sherlock Holmeses – Cumberbatch and Robert Downey, Jr. – to finally have a scene together.
  • Also, it would be pretty amusing if Martin Freeman’s character from Civil War gets to meet Doctor Strange.
  • All’s left now in order to make a showdown between Holmes and Watsons happen is to cast Jude Law for a future MCU role.
  • I had hoped that Shuma-Gorath was going to be the villain of this movie.  And even when it was announced that Mads Mikkelsen was set to play a forgotten minor Doctor Strange villain named Kaecilius, I was still hoping that a certain one-eyed octopus demon would make an appearance.  Hopefully, the next movie will feature Shuma-Gorath and other demons.
  • In the movie, there are three sanctums protecting Earth from evil dimension elements.  The three sanctums are located in London, New York, and Hong Kong.   With all the extent that Marvel was willing to go through to entice China with their films – like removing any Tibetan references (in the comics, the Ancient One was Tibetan, and the place in which Strange trained on was a Tibetan monastery atop the Himalayas) – I was a bit surprised that they went with Hong Kong, when having Beijing or Shanghai as the location for a sanctum would definitely please China more.
  • Thor makes a post-credit appearance!  It means Doctor Strange is going to be in next year’s Thor: Ragnarok!  It means Doctor Strange and Loki are going to share screen time together!  It means Internet darlings Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston are set to break the Internet next year!  I called this two years ago.
  • The Eye of Agamotto is an Infinity Stone in the MCU, namely the Time Stone.  So that leaves one more unrevealed Infinity Stone, the Soul Stone – which will be revealed in next year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 or Thor: Ragnarok.
He'll likely win Best Movie Hero in the upcoming Bernels...

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