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Doctor Strange: Superheros and Mind-Altering Worlds

– by Cameron Ironside

Doctor Strange is like two movies in one, sometimes succeeding and sometimes fighting itself. The film is similar to both ER and Superman, throwing in a dose of The Matrix to bring the two together. If that sounds like an appealing film, then Doctor Strange is for you. The visuals, often reminiscent of Inception, are incredible to the point of being overwhelming. As an example, the entire final battle happens in reverse. But for all the mind-bending and reality-altering special effects, more character development — especially for the females (who are very good in spite of the ‘white washing’ controversy) — would have made for a superior film.

Benedict Cumberbatch shows moxie as Doctor Strange, grooving his way through his job as a surgeon. When a car accident leaves him unable to operate, Strange’s evolution from injured doctor to superhero goes a little too quickly. He makes mastering the ‘mystic arts’ look so easy. His training is over in the blink of an eye. Before we know it, Strange is bending space-time and traversing the multiverse. He is thrown into the midst of a multidimensional war before he has even had time to try the Wi-Fi password.

Tilda Swinton does an admirable job as the androgynous Celtic mystic, the ‘Ancient One’. After initialling rejecting him, the Ancient One becomes Strange’s mentor, teaching him to create and fight in mystical ‘mirror universes’.

Rachel McAdams is restricted to a minor role, representing a love interest from Strange’s old life — before he could astral-travel and burn holes in the fabric of reality. McAdams’ character is not brought along for the ride and often feels out of place in the midst of a multidimensional conflict. This is more a problem of the script because McAdams does an excellent job.

Mikkelsen’s Kaecilius, with his malicious red eyes, was another interesting character that deserved more screen time. His character was understated and had the potential to be a truly memorable supervillain with relatable motives. Instead, he becomes a side show to a darker, more abstract entity. Strangely, his minions get almost equal screen time without being given any sort of background. Who are they and why are they following Kaecilius? These questions are not answered. Benedict Wong, playing his namesake Wong, is suitably circumspect and funny in a non-funny way.

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Doctor Strange is a film that evokes similarities to The Matrix and Inception more so than a Marvel film. It sometimes feels like it could be as good as those films but falls short. The magic in Doctor Strange exists solely in its special effects. It’s a movie that follows the Marvel formula rather than aspiring to be a cinematic artwork. Marvel has the superhero genre pinned down to a fine art. That said, Doctor Strange feels like a missed opportunity to be more than just a ‘superhero movie’. If you like mind-altering visuals and superheros, you’ll love it. Just don’t expect more and you won’t be disappointed.

 

Photo credits: YouTube, Marvel Entertainment, Screenrant.com

 

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