It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a movie… actually, it’s been a long time since I’ve viewed anything that’s come out recently. Most of the stuff I’ve watched in the last two months has been older movies and TV shows, and reading has not really happened outside of college textbooks for obvious reasons stated therein.
Today, however, I’d like to change that. I’m going to review a movie that I’d been anticipating since the first inklings of its development, and finally got to see come to fruition on Saturday the 5th (I write this post a week in advance, so this review really isn’t that late, right?).
Because I’m lazy, I’m going to give you the basic synopsis that one can find by simply googling “Doctor Strange” and clicking the IMDb result:
“Marvel's "Doctor Strange" follows the story of the talented neurosurgeon Doctor Stephen Strange who, after a tragic car accident, must put ego aside and learn the secrets of a hidden world of mysticism and alternate dimensions. Based in New York City's Greenwich Village, Doctor Strange must act as an intermediary between the real world and what lies beyond, utilising a vast array of metaphysical abilities and artifacts to protect the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”
Basically, Doctor Strange is about a fascinatingly flawed character surrounded by other flawed characters learning to overcome his own weaknesses to protect others.
I’m rather a fan of marvel movies. They’re not brilliant, usually, but they’re entertaining in most cases and seem to be doing their best to provide good themes while also pandering to wide audiences of a variety of ages and backgrounds and beliefs.
One of Marvel’s strengths is their protagonists. They rarely fail, when it comes to the main character. Whether you’re an Iron Man or Captain America sort of person, you have to admit that both characters have respectable arcs and [while sometimes those arcs get forgotten in storytelling] are worthwhile protagonists. Take a glimpse at Ant-man or Starlord and you’ve got a pair of excellent protagonists.
Doctor Steven Strange is no different. Not only does Benedick Cumberbatch do an excellent job of portraying the character, but the character himself is a well-developed work of story and theme. The supporting cast was also rather developed and expanded upon, especially for a marvel movie, which often have little to no time to actually do such a thing.
Of course, there’s the one thing that makes this movie truly worth seeing, the one thing that makes this movie stand out from the rest of Marvel and set everyone abuzzing: the cinematography. The movie is masterfully shot and the special effects are amazing and fantastic and they alone are worth the price of admission.
Good protagonist? Check. Stunning visuals? Check. Decent supporting cast? Check.
Plot and character arc resolve?
Here’s the deal: Marvel has very, very few excellent villains. Many point to Loki - and I’m not going to take the time to disagree or agree – as the only good Marvel villain. They just… don’t. There’s different reasons why for each villain, but Doctor Strange has a very simple problem, if a hard one to overcome.
The villain is evil. I’m not going to spoil anything, but there’s a problem with that sentence. What’s the problem? The period at the end.
No villain should be just evil, but the villain in Doctor Strange are. There’s a few hints of motivation, but they’re mostly just evil, and that’s not okay. I don’t feel like I could become them. Their thoughts aren’t remotely human to me, because I can’t step into their shoes and fully understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. It’s a downfall a lot of movies suffer from, but it’s especially marked here because of one other thing:
The character arcs start off excellent and arcing and… never finish. Doctor Steven Strange has a fantastic arc until the climax, then… nothing. His arc is set aside so that the conflict and plot can have their moment along with a random bit of Marvel-geek-level-stuff. Except… that arc was amazing and drove the story up to that moment.
The movie could have been so much more powerful that it already is if the arcs of each character had been drawn to full conclusion.
To Sum Up
Doctor Strange is actually a good film.
Visually, it lived up to my expectations. Audibly, it exceeded my expectations (you go, soundscore). Character-wise, some excelled while others fell flat. Plot-wise… it had so much potential, potential that should have been used better.
That makes it a good film.
Sadly, not a great one.
Would I recommend seeing it? Of course. See it and enjoy it for the good parts, and yearn for something even better.