Everyone seems to have given Disney the title of Kings of the Universe and they aren’t wrong seeing they own the two biggest money-making machines going in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Star Wars Franchise. Disney not only owns these franchises but they have movies planned for the next 10-15 years. So by the time you’ve grown tired of Star Wars Episode XIX, the 3rd reboot of Squirrel Girl will be right around the corner. Superhero movies are a hot-button topic seeing how many people resent them citing a lack of originality and turning Hollywood into making a money-making system and not focusing on quality cinema. I’m personally not a fan of the Doctor Strange series, from what I gather, Strange is a guy who can use magic to do whatever the writers can think of and that’s about it. But seeing how I’m clueless to just about every film franchise that comes out these days, I figured this will be no different.
The film begins with Stephen Strange played by Benedict Cumberbatch, Strange is a rock star neurosurgeon who only accepts the most challenging cases of surgery to satisfy his own ego as the greatest surgeon alive. Strange lives the high life in his Manhattan digs, a watch for every day of the month, and a fast car that only the elite can afford. Sadly his super awesome ride leads to his downfall as a severe car accident leaves him with permanent nerve damage in his hands putting his career and lifestyle in jeopardy. Fresh out of ideas and resources, he decides to take the advice of a man who somehow regained his ability to walk after being paralyzed. So he travels to Nepal in efforts to find the person known as ‘The Ancient One’. The Ancient One shows Strange powers and realms that he could only possibly dream of. Strange decides to learn the art of magic but realizes that he has signed up for more than he bargained for.
Now there is no way of getting around this, the biggest controversy with this film is the choice to cast Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One and not an Asian actor. Now I am not one to join in fake outrage of casting decisions like this but I agree that it would have made more sense to cast an Asian actor in this role. The only reason I can gather that this didn’t happen was Disney didn’t want to piss off its overseas audience. Critic turned Screenwriter C. Robert Cargill talked about in an interview back in April that the studio was worried about the depiction of Tibetans that could anger the Chinese government and thus get the film banned in the second-biggest film market in the world. So they opted for a white actress and decided to piss off the Social Justice Warriors in America was better than losing big money in China. Tilda Swinton is not a bad actress by any stretch but it was hard to feel that she wasn’t out of place in this role.
The film feels and looks very much like Batman Begins meets Inception. So much I was expecting Christopher Nolan to have a producing credit in the film. The film introduces ‘the Mirror Dimension’ which allows people to control reality and fight without affecting the real world around them. This is the cause for about 80% of all the trippy stuff you see in the trailers. The effects are well done and offer a new dynamic we haven’t seen before.
in Marvel movies, their villains tend to stink. Doctor Strange is no different. Mads Mikkelsen stars as Kaecilius and really his role in the film is to set up the story for future villains after him and that has become my biggest problem with the MCU. They spend so much time building up to the next film in the series that they forget to satisfy the audience watching this film as a solo act. There have been 14 movies in the MCU and the only bad guy who has stood out is Loki. 1 out of 14 is a terrible average in baseball and not a good number for this universe either. If you don’t set stakes for the movie at hand, people are never going to believe there is ever a legitimate threat in these movies. Every film can’t simply be a preview for the next movie and this is something that Marvel needs to address.
Doctor Strange is a solid footnote in the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even if it looks like Inception on steroids, the film is visually the most creative film they have done in years. Benedict Cumberbatch feels like a natural in his role as Steven Strange as many fans of Doctor Who will recognize. However, the weakness in the MCU is becoming a recurring problem as the story is set up to present another one-off villain that will only be used to set up another film in the future. Films such as Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy has allowed us to give Marvel a pass with such weak conflicts but seeing at least 3 more introduction movies in the future for Marvel, Kevin Feige and the boys are going to have to put in more effort into a satisfying plot and conclusion if they want the dump truck of money to continue. Doctor Strange gets an A for concept and visuals, but the story is essentially a Batman Begins origin with Magic added to the mix.
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