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TAP Reviews | “Doctor Strange”

Marvel gets Strange, in a familiar way
Dulani Wilson 1st November, 2016 Comics, Movie, Reviews
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Marvel continues their otherwise ever present cinematic presence with the release of Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange. The Sorcerer Supreme promised to be a new lease of life in terms of direction for Marvel Studios’ film franchise, seeing that the fantasy was more based in mysticism rather than science fiction or space opera. And with that said…

 

SPOILERS AHEAD

 

Doctor Strange: Apprentice to Master

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Chronicled is the life of Doctor Strange, a deft but arrogant neurosurgeon, who through a near fatal accident loses the use of his hands, which is kinda important if you want to go poking around someone’s brain jelly. It is however looking to regain the use of his hands he has comes across the a new reality, with unforetold power and wrought with dangers that will all play their part to mold a man of science into the Sorcerer Supreme.

Now with with characters like Strange, a doctor who is always right, brewing in self-confidence– no– an overwhelming sense of arrogance bordering self-worship, the transformation and renewal of the character registered with audiences best when we are led to love-hate him. Benedict Cumberbatch needed to channel a bit of Hugh Lauren’s House. But what we got was, for the most part, slightly funny, really confident doctor. Even his dismissal of the fellow colleague who prematurely confirmed his patient brain-dead was quite conserved to say the least. But, in any case, the first few scenes painted a succinct view of Strange. A man of impeccable worldly tastes, whose skills, though thy help better the lives of others, mainly serve to build an alter to his own vanity and self-worship.

What we didn’t get was an overwhelming sense that he particularly deserved to lose the use of his hands in the car crash. He was an asshole, sure but he was also ‘bigger picture’. How’s that different from Tony Starks or the likes?
 
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His journey for self-recovery takes him as far as his mind and intellect will go. Stem cell- based research is the talk of an experimental research that Strange feels will hasten his rehabilitation of his hands, but when, we assume, is the second best doctor in the world refuses to risk his credentials operating on Strange, his quests take a supernatural turn when he comes across a patient he passed up on who regained use of his limbs from a seemingly unrecoverable spinal injury. Tracking the man down, Strange’s journey into the surreal truly begins with a pilgrimage to the all too familiar east to learn the ancient mystic arts that could heal him. That’s plot point one.

His search takes him to Nepal, where he happens on to Baron Mordo (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), overhearing him in a busy street (immaculate hearing, sir), brings him to the Ancient One. And like the arrogant (sexist? [maybe even ageist{maybe some racial profiling too}]) guy you can imagine Strange’s character is he mistakes an old man instead of Tilda Swinton‘s character as the Ancient One, the master and bearer of great outworldly power.

Strange’s long pilgrimage to finally stand before The Ancient one ends up looking like a waste of time. Could have something to do with the fact all her enlightened speech sounds like mumbo-jumbo one would expect in a wellness gift shop owned by the hippy who took a yoga class that one time.
 
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But despite his arrogance, Strange learns just enough humility to be under the tutilage of the Ancient One to harness the craft of the mystics.
 
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And one thing that stood out for me was a slight mismatch between character and personality. Chiwetel’s character Baron Modo wasn’t as combative to the rise of Strange in the beginning as The Ancient One. She was the one that peered through time in search for Strange; I would expect “There is a strength to him” to come from her lips rather than Baron Mordo’s. But most of the hard lessons, the ones that endangered his life anyway was orchestrated by the Ancient One (we’re pretty sure she sent Strange to the Dark Dimension on the first day). Especially when Baron’s stoic principles go up against the type of man that would brazenly abandon proper procedure to perform a risky operation removing a bullet from a man’s head.

For this reason, Mordo wouldn’t be the one best-suited to introduce Strange to the Ancient One in the first place. What would have been more interesting would be to have Mordo, under-protest, teach Stephen Strange all he knows, giving Strange the very tools he would possibly one day have to use to fight Mordo or the Ancient One himself / herself.
 
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And it is not long that Strange becomes somewhat versed in his talents of casting incantations and astral projection, things get interesting. Kaecilius launches an attack on the three Sanctums, the buildings that are integral for parrying off otherworldly, mystic threats from Earth. And with the destruction of these three houses, the barrier that protects earth from the dangerous entity in the Dark Universe will be free to come and consume our world which it craves for so bad. The ethnocentricity of us Earthlings.

 

How to make the multiverse greater by revealing less?

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It is after the Ancient One gives him a crash course in the mystic arts, sending him hurtling through multi-dimensions, we get the first taste of Marvel’s multi-dimensions. Which was cool, but a huge part of me was expecting to be truly and purelymind-fucked. The imagery however wasn’t exactly new or overly mind-blowing; from the hands growing out of fingers (saw that on the interweb), or the Inception-esque folding and moulding of buildings and defying of gravity, or the Matrix-y “safe space” mirror dimension / simulation program. Needless to say the effects were stunning, and hats go off to the Ancient One and Mads Mikkelsen’s Kaecilius character. It is one of the first- and best fight sequences of the film.
 
doctor strange, marvel, prelude,Benedict Cumberbatch, marvel studios, marvel comics, the action pixel, @theactionpixel,entertainment on tap, mad mikkelsen,psychedelicBut something tells me they could have given glimpses rather than minutes-long sequences of what this multiverse had in store. We had long sequences of kaleidoscopic visions of mind-bendiness, when they could have held back in some places or focus on Strange’s expressions, where we could then cipher we were in a realm where no ordinary man should ever dare enter. Full Metal Alchemist used this in a very powerful way with Edward Elric traversing through the door of truth.

As it goes for horror and fantasy, nothing trumps the depths of our own fear and imaginations.

 

Fruit from the Forbidden tree is very low-hanging

Strange learning of the mystic arts is fast. His progression, though somewhat quick, felt organic. Yet the forbidden incantations which Kaecilius is using to merge the Earth with the time-less immortal realm of the Dark Universe was not heavily guarded at all. A flimsy chain. Thassit. Nor did Wong or Baron really shy away from telling Strange what really happened with Kaecilius or stopped him from even touching the books and pages of the ancient text.

 
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Every information of the forbidden arts was told or come by easily for Strange. No real intrusion or real investigation on the Doctor’s part was needed.The ‘forbidden’ didn’t feel so forbidden, even when he began harnessing the power of time manipulation. Didn’t even get punished. no library restrictions or nothin’. How you let that slide, Wong?!

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It is also with the confrontation between Kaecilius and Strange that Strange comes to understand that the Ancient One herself goes against her own teachings; The Ancient One draws her great powers from the Dark Universe. Baron, understandably, takes this the hardest. Strange, whether it be his risque personalty, his young, yet fettered bond with the Ancient One or both, seems to be a bit more liberal and less betrayed by the reveal. We don’t know her reasons exactly why she chose to draw power from the Dark Universe other than to keep her youthful glow and shiny bald head. But we’re sure it’s more than just cosmetic. Otherwise that’d be sexist.

 

The Channelling of Energies

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In the destruction of London’s Sanctorum, we get to witness the fighting styles of the once-disciple to The Ancient One, Kaecilius, go head-to-head with a gifted prodigy Strange. And their spiritual weapons harnessed from other dimensions mirror their personality: Kaecilius shunt glass-like weapon appears like glass, rigid and with purpose, however misguided. Doctor Strange’s finger-whip incantations are powerful but wild and filled with fury and without form. The Doctor still has a long way to go.

The gateway spell-casting (or doors in the Matrix) is a visually-vibrant way in which our sorcerers travel to far reaches of the globe, and they are used in interesting ways particularly in fight and chase sequences. It almost begged for a Portal / quick open-close-succession-styled scenario.
 
doctor strange, marvel, prelude,Benedict Cumberbatch, marvel studios, marvel comics, the action pixel, @theactionpixel,entertainment on tap, mad mikkelsenOne can not deny the complexity and visual beauty of architectural gothic and greek crafted and moulded in a Salvador Dali /visual illusionistic world. But at the end of the day the gesticulation for opening these gateways just looks like you’re gesturing to drivers that you’re offering to have their windshields cleaned.
 
doctor strange, marvel, prelude,Benedict Cumberbatch, marvel studios, marvel comics, the action pixel, @theactionpixel,entertainment on tap, mad mikkelsenAnd the relics that are imbued with great power choose their wielders, and it would only be fair that Strange’s relic is a bit temperamental. But the cloak of Levitation completes the garb of the great Doctor Strange. Had slight visions of Kill La Kill for some reason during the scenes where the cloak defended Stephen Strange against Kaecilius’ disciple. Some of the humour felt a bit poor in timing, but hey, they have to entertain the kids… right?

 

A Question of Time

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Time is everything. From the plethora of elegant time pieces to the forbidden magic of time-space manipulation. All evil magic is green, even I know that. And for something that would be relatively complex, Strange manages to master it pretty quickly. It would have been good to see a small lack of control when he is discovered playing with the forbidden arts of rewinding and fast-forwarding time as if he DVR’d the last episode of The Walking Dead.

Nevertheless, the fight for the Sanctorum in Hong Kong proved to be a feat of a little genius that had real time action within a reversed environment. Beautifully done, and the way in which, Strange manipulated Wong, then Baron into existing outside the time-reversal event was as intuitive as one could expect. I am just glad that they didn’t CSI-it and describe in detail what was happening before our eyes. That’s annoying. Being treated like a simpleton.

And it is with time reversal that defeats the great enemy at the source the Dark Universe, a “place beyond time”. With a simple incantation that put things in a time loop, Strange binds him and the entity in a feverish looping hell where Strange asks to bargain for his world and gets killed 10 ways to hell. Again. And again. Why a dark entity would keep his word to a budding Sorcerer is beyond us. But Kaecilius and his remaining disciples get sucked into the vortex of the Dark verse never to be seen again.

Good times are here again.
 
Doctor Strange was different, yet the same. The new Marvel Studios’ logo ident was entertaining; the mythicism and stunning vistas were engaging to say the least, but definitely felt it could have used more horror elements to really set it apart and on a pedestal as Marvel revved up a gear to Infinity War. Especially when exploring the Multiverse.

But so far Phase 3 feels like Phase 2. And while the mystic side of things portrayed in Doctor Strange plays to a greater multiverse come Infinity Ward, not to mention the Eye Of Agamotto bears in it an Infinity Stone. So Doctor Strange will be present wherever Thanos makes an appearance to collect it by force for his Infinity Gauntlet. And by the look of things he may have presence in Thor Ragnorok, as the post credit scene has the good Doctor offering his assistance in finding Odin whose gone MIA back in the previous Thor film. Whose title I can never remember being of little impact as it were to my psyche.

Strange also never seemed terribly out of his element in starting over, learning a new craft entirely foreign to his way of thinking. As ever not entirely convinced that the wants and needs of the Ancient One or Baron Mordo matched up with their personalities. Nevertheless, Marvel is proficient. And a change and thematic constructs helped to expand the Marvel Universe just a little bit more, growing expectations of the crossing pathways between the world of the sciences, space, fantasies and mysticism. There was a love interest in there somewhere. Better than Natalie Coleman in Thor… the second one… but yeah, she patched up Doctor when he got injured the first time, lost the Ancient One. Just here twiddling my thumbs until we can get some Carol Danvers in this piece.

RATING: 6.8 out of 10

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