Monday, November 7, 2016

[Review] Doctor Strange

Doctor who? Doctor Strange.

The titular character is the cerebral focus of Marvel Studios' latest installment. It's part Inception. Part The Matrix. Part Harry Potter. And it's definitely a multidimensional experience.

After a bad car wreck, an arrogant brain surgeon named Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) loses feeling in hands. So in an act of desperation, he travels to Kathmandu to seek out a sacred and mysterious healing temple, but he gets way more than he bargained for. Under the intense guidance of Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), Strange learns the mystic arts: magical spells, astral projection, dimension-hopping and time-bending powers. Eventually, he's forced to use them against a bad apple named Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen with stellar eye makeup).

Doctor Strange employs the usual formulas of the Marvel cinematic machine. You know--the prolonged origin story... the bombastic climax in a big city while stuff gets sucked into the sky... the obligatory setups for sequels... But these methods have never quite looked this visually astonishing before. Flaunting its impressive plethora of special effects, the film sees buildings shift, invert, and reflect--like an elaborate kaleidoscope of escalators and conveyor belts. Vibrant colors glow, warp, and dazzle, as if the universe were one humungous lava lamp. There's even an acid-driven oddity sequence that gives us a taste of what might happen if Terry Gilliam ever got ahold of a Marvel superhero movie. The script also brings the laughs, from physical bloopers to new age humor, and by 'new age humor' I mean jokes about Wi-Fi passwords and Drake references.

But there are some plot holes and leaps in the story that don't really flow all that well, and sometimes the action setpieces can be a bit confusing and incoherent. What shiny thing does what? Which portal leads where? You kind of just have to go with it. At one point Strange says, "I don't even know what this is." I often wondered the same thing. But whatever this is, it's pretty frickin' cool.

( 8/10 )

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