Doctor Strange. Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams. Directed by Scott Derrickson. Marvel Studios. 115min. PG-13. Action/Adventure.
Rating: B- for effort
Doctor Strange is a pretty okay movie. In a word, I would call it: watchable.
In the same way Star Trek Beyond was watchable, or to use another Marvel example: Thor. It was a series of visually pleasing images set to vaguely inoffensive music, interspaced with interesting action set pieces and people talking about things —hung on a predictable, cliché-ridden, paper-thin plot.
Before I go into the story, I’ll admit that this movie looks amazing. I saw it in 3D and didn’t regret the splurge for once. The fights are genuinely exciting and interesting to watch, which can’t be said about all Marvel movies. The effects are wonderfully done, for whatever that counts in an era when most blockbusters have excellent special effects.
The story follows Dr. Steven Strange (Cumberbatch), an acclaimed but arrogant neurosurgeon who suffers extensive nerve damage to his hands following a car accident. He’s sent spiraling into depression and seeks increasingly risky and esoteric healing measures.
He hears rumors of a specialist in Nepal who has helped a paralyzed man walk again. In desperation, he visits him in a monastery called Kamar-Taj. It is here, where he discovers and becomes inducted into a circle of sorcerers and starts studying magic.
A unwillingness to take risks with the subject matter fails to elevate the movie from watchable to good. I’ve seen this plot in six different movies in the same universe and I am ready for a more out-there story. This character was the perfect opportunity to do something truly different.
I understand needing to slowly ease people into the subject matter. And I appreciate the attempts to incorporate some original and creative ideas into the script. For example: stopping the big-evil-space-head with a simple and clever trick that was foreshadowed effectively, rather than by simply punching it with magic. Ultimately, the movie played it far too safe though. Perhaps in the inevitable sequel they will try something new?