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Doctor Strange

(Scott Derrickson)

A Decent Introduction to the Mystic Arts.

Going on to about a dozen films or so in the Marvel Universe, there comes a point when you have to present something new to the audience. Everyone was on board with the individual films, which led to the team up of the Avengers. People were blown away with how well they pulled that off. Shift to the second phase of films and we get some decent and generic sequels. Knowing early on that they had to spice things up a bit, Marvel took a chance on some third party characters, hoping that they were unique enough to be considered "refreshing". So we are introduced to Guardians and Ant-Man. This seemed to hold the fans attention for a bit longer. Now were closing in on another set of films and I'm sure Marvel was asking themselves, what can we show them now? Their answer is Doctor Strange. A wonderful kaleidoscope of imagery to grab your attention, despite the same tepid story Marvel has been chugging out for years now. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, the movies are all good in my book, but I feel that the spectacle will not be the only offering people want in the next phase of films.

Strange is a genius surgeon, the best in his field. The only thing that matches his talents is his arrogance...hmmm, sounds like another goatee wearing hero on the marvel universe. Anyway, one night while driving, he ends up in a terrible accident, which destroys his hands. Determined not to live a life of mediocrity, believing he is better than that, Strange dedicates his life to bettering himself. The search takes him to some far corners of the earth and opens his eyes to a new healing power, the power of magic. Quickly learning his new formed powers, Strange must battle some guy who has some evil plan....this is where the story gets a little generic and forgettable. So forgettable, that I forget the villains name, I only remember that he was played by Mads Mikkelsen.

That has been one universal issue that everyone agrees on when it comes to Marvel films. The lack of a compelling villain. Save for Loki, the Marvel films have continuously dropped the ball in this department. They seemed to try and steer back into the right direction with this year's Civil War, but Strange seems to throw them back down a peg as Mikkelsen is not given enough screen time to shine. Before I look anything up, if I recall correctly. He was a former student of the Ancient One, who has suffered some personal loss. This turns him evil and he teams up with a giant cloud monster to bring the destruction of earth. Hmm, some pretty hollow motivation if you ask me. So I'll copy and paste some info from the Marvel wiki to clear some of that motivation up.

Kaecilius was a sorcerer and a former member of the Masters of the Mystic Arts who became disillusioned with the Ancient One when he felt his mentor was not allowing other dimensions to come to Earth, which he believed could reunite him with his deceased wife and son. He formed the Zealots with the intention of defeating the Ancient One and bringing the inter-dimensional being known as Dormammu to Earth.

So with this new information in my mind, I still stand by the fact that these films tend to drop the ball on the villains. So where does the film excel? Well, for starters the aforementioned Ancient One, played by Tilda Swinton. I'll admit, at first I was not a fan of her. Her alien like features and dramatic turns seemed to turn me off of her acting in previous films, but I have since developed a new found appreciation for her. I guess if she sticks to genre flicks or quirky comedies, I like her. She is the highlight in Doctor Strange for me. Cumberbatch does well enough for himself, he plays the arrogant jerk to perfection, but he will have more time to develop that role. For now, this film belongs to Swinton. Rounding out the rest of the supporting cast is Chiwetel Ejiofor, with an irritating character arc and Rachel McAdams, relegated to being the girlfriend sidekick.

I mentioned earlier the kaleidoscope imagery...I literally meant that. The background images of this film were obviously inspired by the images one would find looking through the glass of the toy. Strange takes the Inception leveled effects and kicks it up a notch and to great effect. These visuals are what makes the film stand out from the other entries. Strange's first venture into other dimensions is trippy enough to warrant a viewing.

Doctor Strange is another generic entry into the Marvel franchise, but those generic entries are still pretty damn entertaining. The film fumbles with the villain and some forced comedic bits that don't land, but is strong enough entertaining you that you might not mind. It cleverly sidesteps the usual "city destruction" climax and turns it on its head. Doctor Strange is a welcomed addition to the series.