Sunday, November 20, 2016

Theatrical Review: Doctor Strange

Date: Saturday, November 5th 2016
Time: 1:30pm
Location: Pocono Movieplex
Party: 2 (my mom and I)

Director: Scott Derrickson (mainly psycho-horrors like "The Exorcism of Emily Rose"
Writers: Scott Derrickson, Jon Spaihts, C. Robert Cargill, Steve Ditko
Composer: Michael Giacchino


Doctor Stephen Strange- Bendict Cumberbatch
"The Ancient One"- Tilda Swinton
Christine Palmer- Rachel McAdams
Mordo- Chiwetel Ejiofor
Wong- Benedict Wong
Kaecilius- Mads Mikkelsen
Jonathan Pagborn- Benjamin Bratt

Opening Remarks:

This was one of those weekends I was dying to see a movie. There were three I had in consideration and I thought for sure my dad would want to see a couple of them (the "Jack Reacher" sequel and "Inferno"). Instead, my mom and I opted for Dr. Strange simply because he's another part of the Marvel Universe. Plus, it's Benedict Cumberbatch. Kind of hard to resist and he definitely made the trip worth it.

The theater had maybe a dozen people in it. Some were families with kids between the ages of 6-13. Maybe not as lively as the "Avengers" crowd we were a part of in 2012, but pretty darn close. The movie's mix of comedy and drama was greatly appreciated if crowd participation was any indication.

That series of rhyming just came out that way... completely unintentional.

As for why it took me two weeks to write this movie review... well, a lot of stuff happened. The election for starters and the ups and downs of that (sorry, no further details on that, this isn't a political blog). Things at work have been good and busy. And simply, I just haven't felt like writing a review... not because I didn't like it. I've just been lazy about it for some odd reason.

I'm off to see "Fantastic Beasts" today so I wanted to try to hammer this out before I do. And hopefully I'll be more prompt with that review.


Luckily there were only three trailers because there's no way I would have remembered more two weeks after the fact. I need my ticket stub just to remember the time and whether I saw this movie on Saturday or Sunday.

First: a teaser for the newest "Pirates" movie. The one that's been delayed for ages either by Disney or Johnny Depp's personal shenanigans. And he doesn't even appear it. But there is a bounty hunter (I think?) looking for him. He has a crew that reminds me a little of Davy Jones's and he asked this of someone who looks a lot like Brenton Thewlis (it is him! everyone from the original cast is back except Keira Knightly and I'm just going by the first page on IMDB).

Next- the teaser from "Guardians of the Galaxy 2" that premiered some week my folks were away. Not much on the plot except Starlord still has the hots for Glamora but she has still that case of "Footloose" that's making things difficult. And love that shot of Rocket with a mini-Groot on his shoulder in a matching costume.

Then we have another trailer for "Rogue One"... not sure what to expect from this movie, but it is interesting to see how many roles Felicity Jones has gotten since her Oscar nomination.

The Story:

I hate to make this comparison because it sounds like a self-serving cop-out... but Dr. Stephen Strange is pretty much like Tony Stark, except that he's an exceptionally talented and rich surgeon. It's the ego that makes the comparison unavoidable, not my personal inclination for a particular actor. There's also the fact he likes to play music while he's working, but instead of ACDC, it's Earth, Wind and Fire in the one scene this comes into play. He also is a wealth of pop culture knowledge (the conversation in surgery was about when a certain song by a certain artist was recorded and released- no surprise, Strange is right).
But while he's very successful in his professional life, his personal life- not as much. He still works side-by-side with his ex-girlfriend, Christine, who entertains his personality flaws, but doesn't go much beyond that.

So naturally what happens when you have someone with a massive ego and a particular skillset... you put him into a situation where all that is stripped away and he's forced to cope with the aftermath. [There's actually a PSA at the end of the credits- as if to say "this entire story would never have happened if this person didn't do this"].

After exhausting all of his options, both medically or financially, Dr. Strange finally entertains the pseudoscience of spiritual healing and spends his final cent to Nepal in order to purse it. His inspiration comes from another case of someone who came back from a life-altering injury, whom he meets (I hadn't seen Benjamin Bratt in ages and this was a small, but interesting/different role for him) and we see again in a post-credits scene that leaves the door open for future sequels.

Needless to say, the journey he must take upon reaching his destination (where he meets Mordo, Wong, and the leader of this spiritual movement, "The Ancient One")... it is not easy. And the biggest obstacle is none other than Strange himself.

On the other side of things, we have an ex-disciple of this movement, Kaecilius (who I thought for sure was Viggo Mortenson- who I saw in commercials doing press- but is actually the "Casino Royale" Bond villain), threatening to change the fabric of the world this movement was meant to protect.

Characters and Comments:

I thought for sure with this movie, Benedict Cumberbatch would be a shoe-in for "Sexiest Man Alive"... but then again, PEOPLE still hasn't given that honor to RDJ, so I really shouldn't have gotten my hopes up about them getting it right for once.
But even without his British accent, he was amazing in this. He's not very likeable, but he does grow on you. His sense of humor serves him well.
There's also the matter of the cape he attains halfway through the movie. Maybe the best "inanimate" object scene-stealer since the Magic Carpet in Aladdin.

Rachel McAdams is one of my favorite actresses and another great addition to the Marvel universe. She tries to help Strange through his difficult period, but even she has her limits. But when they next meet, after Strange goes through some training with his new mentor, it's fraught with excitement, drama and humor.

Chiwetel Ejofor, whom most people know as the "12 years a slave" Best Actor Oscar nominee has a great opportunity with this role and if the future is any indication, it's going to be used to its full potential. The events of the film have a profound impact on him and how he evolves a person.

Tilda Swinton is completely unrecognizable as "The Ancient One," but another amazing character.
Wong, who minds the library where all the books of this "religion's" teachings are kept. I read a review that said he was a scene-stealer and I agree. Especially when Strange's pop culture knowledge comes into play. Hilarious stuff.

Our villain, Kaecilius, while powerful, he does present an interesting challenge for our protagonist. When they finally meet and have a conversation, Strange is left to reconsider, yet again, all the things he thought he knew about the life he leads.

What sets this movie apart from other Marvel movies- the effects are BEYOND amazing. They're meant to be seen on a large movie screen. As for them being in 3D IMAX... I'm not sure if I'd recommend or engage in it personally. I did sustain a little bit of a headache afterwards from the 2D version.
One scene in particular was enamoring and dizzying like a rollercoaster. I didn't want it to end, but once it did, it was almost a relief. My stomach needed to catch up with the rest of my body.

My initial impression from the trailers held up rather well: this was Marvel universe meets Inception, but without the dreaming aspect.

Maybe the only downside of the movie overall... the head villain that Kaecilius reports to... Doctor Strange faces him. The way he was defeating was a little gimmicky and lacked imagination, Not to mention a little too repetitive...

Also: stick around for the credits. There're two scenes. One that may help usher Dr. Strange into the next Avengers movie. And another that leaves the door open for a sequel. One is more humorous and the other is more dramatic. Take a wild guess which is which.

Grade: A (93%- a notch above an A-)

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