PG-13 and Marvel. We haven't Deadpool'ed here.
DIRECTOR: Scott Derrickson
Is this my first Marvel movie? This might be hard to review. What can I say about the Marvel movies that hasn't been said a million. The topper to this is that I actually really enjoy the Marvel movies. It would be so easy to completely slam this film because tearing something down is so much easier than justifying likes. (Let's establish, I genuinely hate when people tear something down, especially for this this reason.)
Marvel really did something special. I know that superhero fatigue is a thing, but as a fan of the genre, I'm consistently impressed with how Marvel keep getting it right. I'm going to go as far as to say that Marvel has set the bar for consistency and has probably made me dislike the DC movies all the more. (Sorry, but Make Mine Marvel.) There is something ridiculously fun about these movies. Perhaps it is the tone of these movies. When reading the comics, I always used to think of DC Comics as the one that was lighter in tone. Marvel was always the grittier universe. Think of those old images of Superman. We're talking pre-New 52. He always had a smile. It kind of made it a big deal that, when Superman died, it was so tragic. DC got darker and tried embracing reality while Marvel stayed tonally appropriate to its characters. Daredevil was allowed to be dark because the content was dark. Spider-Man was light in tone, but grew serious when it needed to. I have to applaud Kevin Feige for understanding that each character had his own tone. But they all have moments that encouraged smiling and laughter. Doctor Strange maintains that tradition.
One of the bigger criticisms that I have about the Marvel films is that they are rarely experimental. One of the biggest letdowns I've had with movies was the dropping Edgar Wright from Ant-Man. The dude is known for innovation. You also know my opinion about Edgar Wright if you keep up with this site. (Don't worry, no one does. These are words that get shipped out to the void.) Doctor Strange claims in many ways to be experimental. I'd like to establish that it really isn't. It looks super cool and plays up the 3D extremely well. But that's also the baseline what is needed to make Doctor Strange a functional movie. The character of Doctor Strange comes from the Kirby arthouse. It is bizarre and is primarily about spectacle. In that way most of all, Doctor Strange succeeds. It pushes the bounds for imagery similar to the way that Thor made Asgard both majestic and accessible.
The movie is fun. Benedict Cumberbatch and Marvel have always been floating around the idea that they'd be a match made in heaven and I think they're right. Cumberbatch has really embraced the idea that he is an amazing character actor and was built for franchises. I can only compare him to Sir Ian McKellen. Both are extremely talented actors who leave snobbery at home. I jump back to the days of Sir Alec Guinness, who clearly would have a bad taste in his mouth knowing how impressive the Marvel slate has become. The biggest complaint I have about Cumberbatch in this role is the insistence that Strange still be American. Yes, the character is an American and Stan Lee is really about the Marvel Universe built primarily in New York. But c'mon...do we really need to have Doctor Strange be American. There is something very simple about his voice and we all know how Benedict Cumberbatch sounds like. We couldn't say that he was raised in London and moved to New York. This is petty, but it did pull me out of the movie a few times.
I'm not going to say anything spoilery about the ending, but I did find it anticlimactic. Similar to the problems I had with the Harry Potter franchise, magic presents a storytelling problem. Everything can be explained away by magic because it is impossible to establish all of the rules of magic. If the auteur does, then those rules are made to be broken. That happens here. It seems kind of cheap, but I can't think of a better answer for a fundamentally flawed genre. At the end of the day, enter the theater thinking "Magic is fun and cool to look at" and you'll have a good time. This movie didn't change my life, but I love that this movie exists, along with the rest of MCU.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.