Superheroes most definitely fall within the Sci-fi — Fantasy spectrum, wouldn’t you say? Which is why I have chosen to include my review of Doctor Strange on the blog this month. Particularly as this movie leans more towards fantasy than most of the other Marvel movies do… what with wizards and magic and all.
As a general rule I cannot resist any of the Marvel or DC movies, as I really do enjoy the action, the characters, the drama, the witty humor, and the nostalgic nods back to those Saturday morning cartoons I used to watch as a kid. But knowing that this movie came with Benedict Cumberbatch… and released near my birthday… made it an absolute must-watch-in-theaters. And I’m so glad we did!
I am tempted to say that this movie is the BEST Marvel movie to come out since Captain America: The Winter Soldier. And, in fact, I think I will stand by that – despite how much I loved Guardians of the Galaxy – and I would even say that it is right up there in the top 5 Best Marvel Movies Ever (the other 4 would be Iron Man 1, Avengers 1, Thor 1, and Winter Soldier) with Guardians squeaking in around #6.
I may be slightly biased because: Benedict Cumberbatch. But… I digress.
Meet Doctor Strange – a brilliant and egotistical surgeon whose moments of being an absolute jerk are poignant enough that the audience gets a good glimpse at how this character arc may become one of redemption, but also short-lived enough that we never get a chance to thoroughly despise him for it. I felt that the balance was struck with this character far better than it was with Tony Stark in the first Iron Man (some of you may remember my review of the original Iron Man from back in 2008… which seems so very long ago… in which I wasn’t a huge fan of Iron Man or the new Marvel Franchise in general).
Of course, something awful has to happen to him in order for the story to progress, so without spoiling too much, let me just say that within moments of the movie’s opening, Doctor Strange is left without the use of his hands… a nightmare scenario for a surgeon, particularly one of his caliber.
With nothing else in the world that he is good at or has any desire to do, Dr. Strange sets off on a journey to fix his handicap the only way he knows how, by throwing money and treatments at it. But when he finally has nothing left and nowhere else to turn, an incredible story about a man whose injury should have left him unable to walk suddenly turning a corner and being able to carry on a perfectly normal lifestyle sets the good Doctor on a journey to a far away country where he hopes to find the same miraculous cure.
That cure is not what he expected, however. And the paths that open up before him may not lead him to the simple solution he believed he sought… but there may be something even greater in store for him than returning to surgery.
I loved practically everything about this movie. From the careful way that the script-writers handled the word “magic” in the movie (one of the characters tells Strange that what they use is called “magic. Or, if that offends your modern sensibilities, think of it as ‘source code.’”) by equating it with “science we don’t understand fully yet,” or “the same things that make Thor and Hulk and Captain America and Spiderman possible.” to the laugh-out-loud moments of pure witty humor, this movie was so much fun to watch. I also appreciated the nods to Sherlock… and despite the weirdness of Benedict Cumberbatch without a British accent, he played the part marvelously, and I have come to expect nothing less.
There was no dearth of fantastic supporting characters in this movie, as well. The villain was quite believable, Mads Mikkelson always does a fantastic job. I also loved getting to see Chiwetel Ejiofor play a good guy, as I loved him in Serenity, it was fun to see him play a foil to Strange in a supportive way. Tilda Swinton did a phenomenal job with her role, and was barely recognizable from her role as the White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia, and it was fun to see her play a non-villain, as well. I also really loved Rachel McAdams in her role as Strange’s colleague/ex-girlfriend, as she played the part in an absolutely believable fashion – which ranged the gamut of emotions from humorous to heart-wrenching. She reminded me a lot of the Molly character in BBC’s Sherlock series.
The thing I loved most about this movie, however, has to do with the way it ends. I do not want to spoil that for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, so all I will say is this: the resolution is NOT reached through a fist-fight. Doctor Strange has to use that incredible brain of his in order to solve the problem and win the battle, and that was extremely refreshing to see. In an era where it often feels like all action/adventure/mystery/crime/thriller/fantasy movies devolve into a question of: “how fast can the main character run” or “how much harder can the good guy throw a punch than the bad guy” it was really fun to see this movie resolve with nothing of the sort and get to watch the resolution come about through more of a “checkmate” sort of scenario.
If you missed this in theaters… make sure you watch it as soon as it comes to DVD (which, my sources tell me, will be February 28th… just in time to wrap up February is Fantasy Month)!
Five Dragon Eggs