Monday, November 14, 2016

Doctor Strange (2016)

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. To comic book superhero movies, I mean. What are you going to do? As claptrap goes, the movie version of the Doctor Strange comic book is serviceable entertainment, and true enough to the original claptrap of the comic book. If the special effects and murky theology of Inception wowed you, your mind may be blown all over again for the couple of hours this goes (3D! Imax! which I didn't do, but you could). At least you'll probably like going to get coffee with someone later to sort it all out. Yes, I know the totality of these "Marvel universe" movies is lumbering toward a staggering climax, but honestly, it started feeling like homework almost right away for me. I see, for example, that Doctor Strange has previously appeared in two Thor movies and one Captain America movie, so I'm already at least three movies behind. Meanwhile, I still can't get past the frigging costumes in any superhero movie yet, except parodies like Super. Call it denial on my part if you must, but I'm just amazed at what a movie industry powerhouse Marvel Studios has become. I liked the Doctor Strange comic book, mostly for the trippy art by the originator of the character and basic story, illustrator Steve Ditko. This movie, by way of pro forma and all, is the origin story of the mystical superhero with mysterious ties to the mysterious beyond, and as these things go it's not bad. Lots of great location shots from around the world give it a nice exotic gritty flavor. Even better, the story is engaging, and more lucid than I remember the comic book ever was, even as many of the more trippy sequences obviously look to Ditko for their inspiration. That's fun and even a little nostalgic if you're a fan of Ditko like I am. The story is neatly executed too, with a competent screenplay, good sense for narrative momentum, character development, backstory, music, surprises, and all considerations swept forward and unfolding with a pleasantly nimble drive. It's just full of stars and professional movie actors too: Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo, Rachel McAdams as Doctor Christine Palmer, and Benadryl Comfortblanket as Doctor Stephen Strange. Oh, look, there's Benjamin Bratt too. Cool. And Stan Lee, cackling at Aldous Huxley. Nice touch, man. God or perhaps Doctor Strange himself only knows where it goes from here.

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