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Dr. Strange: Strangely unsatisfying


With its trailers and promotions creating much excitement, Doctor Strange does not completely disappoint but fails to meet expectations.

Directed by Scott Derrickson, Marvel’s new movie follows the story of an arrogant but incredibly talented neurosurgeon who, after a devastating car accident, seeks a cure for his damaged hands. Doctor Stephen Strange, played by BBC’s Sherlock Holmes’ Benedict Cumberbatch, eventually discovers a hidden world of mysticism, magic, and alternate dimensions. He needs to put his ego aside in order to fully realize the potential of his power. As he navigates this world under the tutelage of a Celtic mystic, known only as the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), he discovers the darker side of this magical world and has to fight against a disciple-turned-villain Kaecilius.

From the beginning, the movie’s plot proves to be very predictable. Strange’s character arc finds similarities with fellow Marvel characters like Thor and Tony Stark. He starts off as a rich and proud man who serves only himself. As he goes on his mystic training (much like the one Bruce Wayne aka Batman goes through), his teacher and peers need to teach him to put aside his arrogance to serve a greater cause (he does not completely lose his ego though at the end of the movie). However, a man becoming one of the most powerful sorcerer after only undergoing a few months of training  feels a lot like a Gary Stu. He just so happens to be able to open the Eye of Agamotto, a gauntlet that holds the Infinity Stone and can manipulate time, because he is intelligent and “special.” All the while, there is an Darth-Vader-esque antagonist who abandons the teachings of the Ancient One and, along with his cult of disciples, is convinced that bringing darkness to the Earth would save humanity from death. I am sure you have seen this character in many other movies.

Now, this typical plot (which is adapted from the comic books) could work if only the screenplay had been more original and clear. Many cliche scenes and lines could have been more sophisticatedly incorporated into the plot, such as the classic “arrogant-guy-blows-off-at-girl-and-girl-gets-hurt-and-stops-caring.” Plus, the impressive cast is filled with acclaimed Oscar-nominated actors (Cumberbatch, Ejiofor, Swinton, and McAdams) who can deliver better performances if only they were given lines over which they could exert their skills. Since this is another Marvel film largely based on the mechanics of a fictional world, it is essential that the magical and scientific concepts are clearly explained. Yet, the moviemakers are trying to fit so many elements into the film that many of the matters such as mirror realms, the Eye of Agamotto, or the whole hidden world of magic are not fully explained. This then leads to much confusion for viewers who have not yet read the comic books. At the end of the movie, Strange needs to face off against the previously ambiguous, Thanos-like Dormammu in order to prevent Earth from being consumed by the ominous yet obscure Dark Dimension. How he defeats such a powerful foe, I shall not spoil here.

The most redeeming quality of the film is its mesmerizing visual effects and color schemes. The first scene starts with a chase scene, but instead of plain running and gun-shooting, two masters are literally folding the streets and spinning the buildings. All the magical elements and spells look realistic and would be even more incredible in 3D and IMAX. With this movie, Marvel also fortunately succeeded in its never-failing humor. Strange’s sarcastic personality and gags involving his Cape of Levitation kept the audience in constant laughter.

Doctor Strange is not a bad movie. As a lover of Marvel movies, I truly want to give this a higher rating. Although the movie provided an adequate amount of entertainment, it has some major flaws that makes it fall short of expectations from its predecessors, such as Captain America: Civil War or Ant-man. There are still many potential subjects to explore and the newly-revealed infinity stone of time will surely come into play later in the MCU. With the end-screen credits hinting at Doctor Strange’s return in Thor: Ragnorak and a possible sequel, we can hopefully see a more flush-out plot in upcoming additions.

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