Not just another obligatory episode in the MCU, Doctor Strange impresses with its sincere efforts to look and feel different.
Stephen Strange, an accomplished but snobbish neurosurgeon, badly damages his hands in a car accident. To heal himself, he approaches a paraplegic who succeeded in regaining mobility of his legs, and is directed to a mysterious sorcerer named the Ancient One. Under The Ancient One, Strange acquires mystical abilities and learns of the constant threat Earth endures due to attacks by beings of other dimensions. He soon comes into conflict with Kaecilius, a former disciple of the Ancient One. The latter is determined to destroy Earth’s defences against the Dark Dimension. An act which would result in the whole planet being engulfed.
Incredibly profitable as they still are, I think a cosmic threat looms over superhero movies. So popular and well-known are they, even non-comic readers are familiar with their associated tropes. For the lazy producer, this means a seductive and convenient checklist of to-dos and not-to-dos. Tick and tick, exclude and exclude. There. The latest is ready to go. Oh, remember to include a mid-credits scene. Never forget to promote the next movie …
Doctor Strange isn’t ground breaking, but be in story or effects, you feel that sincere effort to stand apart from other Marvel entries. Benedict Cumberbatch brings the mythical Sorcerer Supreme to life wonderfully. Injecting flair and style into a snob character, who also happens to be a classic reluctant hero, who’s also quite capable of out-talking anyone in a discussion on why he doesn’t need to fight. And then there are the background effects. So intoxicating and quite the antithesis of the wanton destruction scenes moviegoers have been inundated with for years. To put it another way, I am quite willing to pay to watch Doctor Strange again, likely in an IMAX theatre. I so want to gawk once more at those dizzying Escher-ish scenes.
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PS: Director Scott Derrickson deserves commendation for his efforts to avoid certain stereotypes of the Silver Age of Comics. Now, I’m Asian, and honestly, these stereotypes have never bothered me that much. (To me, they are manifestations of a duller age.) Still, it’s heart-warming to see a movie producer actively shun such stereotypes. I’m inclined to pass the romantic statement that it’s proof the world has gotten a step closer.