Doctor Strange (2016)

This is the second movie I’ve been wrong about in a relatively short amount of time, and I couldn’t be happier. I anticipated Marvel’s Doctor Strange to be a shoo-in for my growing list of repetitive, borderline-tedious superhero movies, but just when I thought my superpower was super-cynicism, I bought a ticket to this mind-bending action-fantasy thrill ride. Long story short, I enjoyed every second of it (and there were a lot of seconds. I mean, 6,900 of them, give or take). Doctor Strange is an adventure that transcends space, time, and crosses through multiple dimensions to do it. I think it’s restored some of my faith in the genre, too.

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Marvel’s really struck a nice chord with Doctor Strange, many thanks to its inventive fight sequences, its brilliant, damaged, and wonderfully obstinate hero, and a spellbinding soundtrack composed by our lord and savior, Michael Giacchino. Also, everyone loves a good Mads Mikkelsen villain.

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And while the visual effects are somewhat dizzying, they really are part of what makes this story so unique. The chaotic atmosphere piles on a fresh topcoat of danger to the already impossible mountains Strange has to climb. I got a bit of an Inception vibe from some of the visuals, but this batch of computer-generated sorcery was definitely blended with something a bit more…psychedelic. What I’m saying is, it would be a terrible idea to watch either of these movies under the influence.

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While its cinematography is first-rate, Doctor Strange’s greatest asset is its hero. The film’s title character is undeniably flawed–he’s stubborn and arrogant, with a one-track mind and an ego the size of Sokovia–but he also has the capacity to come full-circle. The movie deals with themes of physical vs. mental challenges, acceptance of responsibility, and defining one’s own recovery; the lessons Strange learns are quite visible, but they don’t veer into the realm of heavy-handedness. The good doctor succeeds as a protagonist because he is willing to learn, adapt, and grow. (It also helps that his coping mechanism is literally to become a sorcerer.)

All in all, this movie has a lot going for it. The special effects are unreal, the humor hits the mark, and there are even a few important links to the existing MCU movies, there to remind you that they’re still building up to something big. That being said, I wouldn’t count the climax among these aforementioned connections, since any seasoned fan who buys a ticket to a Marvel movie knows that they will probably have to sit through the destruction of a major city before the credits roll. But hey, at least Doctor Strange has the decency to clean up his own mess. Good on you, doc.

GRADE: A

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