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A nerd who thought it would be cool to, with the help of a few equally insane buddies adapt the entire Marvel Universe (with some DC Comics thrown in for kicks) with My Little Pony...wish me luck

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  • 43 weeks
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  • 221 weeks
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Spoiler Free Review: Doctor Strange (2016) · 5:11am Nov 8th, 2016

Director Scott Derrickson, fresh off the success of such horror films as Sinister and The Exorcism of Emily Rose takes a wild and mind bending leap into the magical main stream with his entry into the sprawling, wildly beloved Marvel Cinematic Universe, Doctor Strange.

Right off the bat, Derrickson takes us on a fun, swirling ride that never takes itself too seriously, taking the right cues from such films as Guardians of the Galaxy, and creating a wide-eyed magical adventure through dimensions and parallel universes that fills the audience with a sense of giddy fun and excitement at seeing something awesomely new. It jumps and leaps along, it's running time brisk yet measured, taking time to economically develop our protagonist, the arrogant yet brilliant neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange, who, after a horrific car accident, loses the use of his hands, causing him to undergo a hefty bit of soul searching, eventually ending up studying under the mysterious Ancient One. Cue him being taken on an adventure into the world of magic, and finding a new purpose for himself, and learning the valuable lesson of humility.

Cumberbatch perfectly embodies Strange's blend of immense arrogance, yet true brilliance, and does so in a package that is still inherently likable. We see exactly why he's the absolute best at what he does, yet you also see how his own arrogance has completely tainted his talent. Once the accident happens, and Strange has his only purpose in his life taken from him, Cumberbatch is able to strip the arrogance away, and become a truly broken, desperate man, giving the audience ample reason to sympathize with Strange. Yet he also maintains his excellent humor and sense of timing, creating a character who bears not only great magical skill, but a razor sharp wit.

Chiwetel Ejiofor and Tilda Swinton do excellent supporting terms, as the stern minded Mordo, and the mysterious Ancient One. Both embody the two sides of a mentor, from Swinton's Obi-Wan styled mysterious riddle giver, to Ejiofor's drill sargent. Add to them Benedict Wong's librarian (who is also named Wong), who has a humorous sense of no nonsense dedication to his role as guardian of the ancient tomes (including several opportunities for him to kick some real ass). Rachel McAdams gives an excellent performance as Strange's ex-girlfriend/close friend Christine Palmer, who remains wonderfully grounded and practical, providing a great sense of awareness to the film.

On the villain side, Mads Mikkelsen as the mysterious, brooding Kaecilius, who, while still fitting into the broader MCU's tendency towards simplistic villainy, fits well within the film, since it's heavily implied he's working as an underling to the unambiguously evil Dormammu, who is a swirling mountain of demonic evil.

But really, in many ways, I've found this film, and by extension the MCU, is far more focused on developing the protagonist. In many previous superhero films prior to the MCU, the stories were less about the protagonists, and more about the villains who challenged them. The heroes were the status quo, the way things always would be. The villain challenged that status quo, and it was up to the hero to restore balance. Now, obviously, the MCU still carries with it the tradition of maintaining a certain status quo, but it's far more occupied with having the characters grow. For what good is a sprawling universe if we don't see the characters we've come to care about have any development or change? And I feel that's what this film does excellently. Stephen Strange truly does change as a person by the end of the film, and yet there's still tons of room to expand his world and his character, and the broader MCU.

The visual effects are absolutely astounding. Moving in leaps and bounds into the wild and mind bending, Doctor Strange makes Inception's famous city bending and takes it to the ultimate extreme, while also sending us flying through mind boggling dimensions and parallel worlds, where Ben Davis' cinematography gets to go wild and psychedelic with the color scheme.

Michael Giacchino's score is giddy and energized, blending in musical references to Strange's psychedelic origins, and the surging, neo-John Williams' strings he's known for. Balancing emotion with excitement, it's easily one of the best scores the MCU has had up to date.

The film's tone, as I mentioned before, knows fully how out there the plot is, and therefore embraces it, creating a happy-go-lucky, "let have fun with this world" tone that doesn't take itself seriously. Yes, the stakes are high, and the emotions are genuine, but Doctor Strange still knows that it's here to entertain and take us on a fun ride, something that is so refreshing in the increasingly gritty, downtrodden and 'realistic' tone most superhero films seem to go for (looking at you, DC Cinematic Universe).

So, suffice to say, Doctor Strange proves to be a wild and imaginative ride, taking the tried and true Marvel Formula, and giving a good jolt of magical excitement and glee.

I eagerly await more of this magical world.

5 out of 5 stars.

Comments ( 5 )

When this wins the Oscar for special effects, will it be the first Marvel movie to earn an Oscar?

Spoiler: Superman dies!

Biggest issue I had with this film was that too much of it feels like what we've seen before in origin stories. Too much of a "been there, done that." It's still done well, but it feels a bit tired. Ant-Man felt much more fresh in its origin story.

I will say that I loved the way he beats the villain, though. Practically all of the other Marvel film climaxes just end up being a really big fight where they overpower the enemy, but this one had him win by outthinking the opponent rather than overpowering him.

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