Saturday, November 12, 2016

Doctor Strange

2.5/4

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelson, Benedict Wong

Rated PG-13 for Sci-Fi Violence and Action Throughout, and an Intense Crash Sequence

Readers will know full well how tired I am of superhero movies.  I am tired of their sameness, their obsession with fan service, and that their bloated budgets snuff out other, potentially better films.  But I was optimistic about "Doctor Strange," and that's for a few reasons.  First, the cast.  I love Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton.  Second, the director.  Scott Derrickson has a pretty good track record.  "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" is a fascinating and at times scary film, and "Sinister" is the most terrifying film of the past 10 years.  But it was not to be.  Simply put, the film is a mess.

Dr. Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) is a New York City surgeon whose ego matches his talent.  That is until he gets into a brutal car accident and loses the ability of his hands.  Desperate not to lose the meaning in his life, he seeks out treatment in Nepal.  Apparently, there are those who can manipulate the world around them.  Strange becomes a devoted disciple and quickly becomes very powerful.  Of course, there are those who use these powers for evil, like Kacilius (Mikkelson).

When a movie doesn't take place in our world, there is one rule that the film has to follow: consistency is everything.  Otherwise the film will at best look like it's making itself up as it goes along or worse make no sense.  "Doctor Strange's" world is so complicated that it takes half the movie to explain, and even then I was still lost.  I guess that you have to be well versed in the comics to understand it.

The film's acting is a high point, although considering the cast, I suppose that isn't much of a surprise.  Benedict Cumberbatch acquits himself well amid all the special effects (and there are a lot of them), sporting a flawless American accent as well.  Without it ever seeming to be forced.  Natch.  Tilda Swinton, whose casting as a character usually regarded as Asian was controversial, fits right in as the mysterious, Morpheus-type teacher known as The Ancient One.  Swinton can do anything, so while it would have been more appropriate to cast, say, Gong Li or Michelle Yeoh, at least Swinton's talent makes it more palatable.  Rachel McAdams is cute, but doesn't have much to do.  Ditto for the rest of the cast.

"Doctor Strange" is wall-to-wall special effects.  There are very few, if any, scenes that don't have some CGI or something.  Some of them, such as those in the villain's realm (?) are sensational.  And Derrickson does some interesting things with the concept of time in this movie.  But they're in service of a plot that is a total mess.  The first half is all right, but the second half rarely makes sense, even though it's constantly explaining itself.  I tried very hard to keep up with it but eventually I just gave up.

There are plenty of movies out now that are wonderful.  There's no need to waste your time with "Doctor Strange."

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