a review by the Crow.
How do I even begin to piece out my relationship with the good doctor?
Well, I’ve never read comics much, but I do have a special relationship with comic books. That said, I’ve long been aware of the doctor’s high perch upon the ladder of Marvel’s most powerful characters, and I have enjoyed a few stories starring him.
Strangely ha! enough, it wasn’t until I watched Doctor Strange that I realised how close the character would speak to me.
The Raven watched Doctor Strange before I had the opportunity to. You can read her review here. And as usual, we disagree on multiple things, but that has more to do with our own philosophies rather than the quality of the movie (for once).
So how did Doctor Strange, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s final entry of the year fare? Let this crow take you under his wing and show you.
WARNING: THIS SECTION CONTAINS SOME [MINOR] SPOILERS
Stephen Strange is a brilliant neurosurgeon, and like all people so high in their field (especially when it comes to a field so tense), he is a busybody who carries a sense of detachment from reality.
One of my friends is on her way to becoming one soon, and I’ve had the privilege of speaking to people who are at the calibre Stephen’s portrayed to be. The immediate thing to point out is that the character is pretty much on point. What outsiders might see as egotistical or arrogant is really more an extension of the trade and the professionalism that neurosurgeons have to carry.
Of course, that’s not to say he isn’t a touch arrogant, but much of this arrogance is deserved (rightfully, it can be argued, in Strange’s eyes).
After losing the use of his hands to a car accident and becoming disillusioned once successive surgeries fail to fix them, Stephen embarks on a journey to seek healing.
After a tip from a miraculously-healed patient he once turned away, Stephen reaches Kathmandu. After encountering a man named Mordo, Stephen enters the mysterious Kamar-Taj and is introduced to the Ancient One — an age-old mystic who holds that the key to his healing lies not in the arts he is familiar with, but rather in more mystic forms.
After Stephen (quite rightly) scoffs at the idea, the Ancient One provides him with the one thing all of us who have scientific-leaning minds would love every hocus-pocus-voodoo-“secret knowledge”-smugface the world over to give us: evidence.
And like any good person of science would do once faced with whole new worlds of knowledge: Stephen wants to learn.
It takes a while, but after some stern coaching by the Ancient One, some encouragement by Mordo, and the resident librarian Wong’s refusal to let Stephen read certain books, Stephen becomes somewhat adept at the mystic arts; learning to use the Eye of Agamotto, even, in his own time and using it to learn from the pages that have been removed from certain books.
Running parallel to Stephen’s becoming a sorcerer, we get Kaecilius and his story. In the opening scenes of the movie, Kaecilius steals a few pages from one of the Ancient One’s books before being chased out by her (the ones Stephen ends up reading).
Eventually Kaecilius and Strange cross paths. Armed with the Cloak of Levitation, now, Strange fights off Kaecilius and his followers alongside the Ancient One and Mordo, with Wong joining the battle shortly.
What follows is pretty standard fare. Far as origin plots go, it’s nothing special, and even was a touch disappointing for this crow. But it’s nothing bad. The plot is paced well, and has a healthy touch of humour, which is expected from MCU movies. The only real disappointment is that Kaecilius’ character comes off as a missed opportunity. Hopefully, we get to see the man fleshed out a little more if he returns in the future.
At the end of the day, this is Doctor Stephen (Vincent) Strange. One of the most powerful characters in the Marvel universe. And what a stark contrast anything to do with him would be in comparison to the rest of the characters we’ve seen introduced into the MCU. The only real “magic” we’ve seen so far (apart from people being inhumanly tough when it comes to impact injuries) is the Scarlet Witch’s. And her powers have been played off more as hypnotism and telekinetic (what a powerful character displayed all watered down). This was going to be a tough one, and Marvel’s played it safe. No qualms there. I understand where they’re coming from.
Doctor Strange is as polished as all MCU movies are. Usually, I don’t like CGI or overuse of effects, but Scott Derrickson and his team seem to have found a nice balance. The only point which had me woeing my corvid eyesight was during the face-off with Dormammu. Toning the effects down here a little would’ve helped what’s on screen make a little more sense. It’s not necessarily bad, but it really is a touch too much compared to the rest of the movie (even though we’ve just taken off from Hong Kong).
That said, the Cloak of Levitation is handled excellently. That loveable stretch of fabric is my favourite thing about the whole movie (possibly).
The performances are quite nice. Cumberbatch stands out as “Mister Doctor”… sorry: Doctor Strange (that “Mister Doctor” exchange with Kaecilius is by far one of the funniest moments of the movie).
And maybe just this is me, but goodness gracious me does Dormammu look stupid.
One thing that kept itching at the back of my head throughout the movie was how (at times) the score was a little close to Star Trek Into Darkness — as was the framing of a few shots. This crow is happy to consider these moments as an attempt to take similar moments from that awful, awful movie and do them better for Cumberbatch’s sake.
STEPHEN STRANGE 7.5/10
Cumberbatch plays to his strengths as Dr Stephen Strange. The character is close to his portrayal of Holmes, and that works wholly in his favour. I’ve always dreaded his use of American accents, but it works on him, here. I’d prefer it if he could’ve kept it up throughout the runtime of the movie.
Good job, Benedict Cabbagepatch. Good job, indeed.
THE ANCIENT ONE 8/10
Ah, Tilda Swinton! I loved every moment of her on screen. As usual, she plays her role to perfection.
Ejoifor is once again solid. Can this man do any wrong? He is the picture of fundamentalism. He’s the kind of believer which I mean when I say that ‘belief is dangerous’. Whilst of stunning moral fibre, the Ancient One’s connection to Dormammu, and the emergence of new information thanks to Kaecilius makes him turn against his old order.
And in him, we might have the seeds of the best sort of antagonist. To him, the Ancient One and Dr Strange are the traitors. He is the purist. And who better than Chiwetel to pull it off?
Also, his reuniting with Cumbrianmash on screen is a welcome moment since their work together in 12 Years A Slave.
Not really much to say about the man. While he shares a few nice moments with the good doctor, he’s not really fleshed out at all. He’s alright, at best.
CHRISTINE PALMER 6/10
Rachel McAdams performs, as always, admirably. The fun thing is of course that she’s now played the love interests of two actors who’ve played Sherlock Holmes. Not really much to say about her overall, though.
THE CLOAK OF LEVITATION 10/10
Ah, the boss to end all bosses. The Cloak is the best sidekick to ever have. The Cloak knows what should be done and what shouldn’t, and Stephen Strange can do with all the help he can get.
It’s nice to see how Marvel’s slipping in its other stars into their cinematic universe. Of course, the contents of this movie point to the strange doctor making an appearance in the upcoming Avengers movies.
I yearn for a truly strange Avengers lineup in the future. The Doctor, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch, Vision, and so on? Marvel’s getting it right with setting up for combinations of characters viewers would otherwise be confused with.
They’re doing with movies what comics have always done: form an intricate mythos that is almost impenetrable for the first timer. These are movies they’re doing this with. In a 10 year timespan. The comics have taken decades to get to this point, and they’re doing it with movies. In 10 years.
It’s marvellous (ha!), what they’ve done with the material they have. I admire Marvel’s patience and I admire their dedication.
After Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange, this crow is nothing but excited for the MCU’s future. Black Panther hitting cinemas soon? Scarlet Witch and Vision already here? A new Spiderman? Are Marvel ever doing their job admirably.
Good year, Marvel. A good year indeed.