Doctor Strange is one of those Marvel heroes I never followed growing up. Occasionally he would pop into other series (I seemed to recall seeing him do some things with Thor and Spider Man at some point in the past) but I didn’t go out of my way to seek out his stuff. Mostly what I remember was he was presented differently than the other heroes. Where they were going after threats to humanity with lots of heroics and superhero one-liners, Strange was strange. There were talks about other dimensions and other metaphysical stuff which frankly my youthful self just kind of bounced off. Nowadays, Strange is something which I think I could have gotten into.
As for the movie? I will give you two reviews.
The first review is of the film itself and regrettably, I found it to be average hero origin story 101. Let me see if this sounds familiar? Arrogant man is brought low by a crisis, goes on a voyage of self-discovery in hopes of turning back the clock. Discovers what he was looking for and is served up a villain to fight. Loses the first time, goes through further doubt, gets motivational speech and then comes back in for the big win – at the same time learning about self-sacrifice and becoming heroic. Where have I we seen that one before? The answer is everywhere.
That isn’t to say the movie itself isn’t worth seeing. Like all the Marvel movies, it is competently made and given that the heroes and villains of this story can bend time, matter, and space towards their will, there are some inventive set piece scenes and use of CGI. The performances are well done and they have continued the trend of injecting humor into the story. Strange isn’t Tony Stark – but he gives off the same vibe. Still, I think there was missed opportunity for something special here. The material lent itself to a quieter more metaphysical movie. To battles of competing realities and psychedelic head trips where time itself was called into question – I wanted the superhero version of Inception. I must admit I was disappointed with all the possibilities, I got two guys sword fighting. Come on, these guys can make reality their bitch – couldn’t we have gotten something different?
There it is, average. Two thumbs meh.
I said earlier there would be two reviews and the second one is that no Marvel movie can be talked about in isolation. Disney is building a tapestry of interlocked stories and properties and Doctor Strange the property is an exciting addition and opens the possibilities of tons of news stories. The Netflix properties (Daredevil, Jessica Jones) are street stories while Agents of Shield and the main line movies (Captain America, Iron Man) are about defending the Earth. Guardians of the Galaxy covers the Space angle and Thor is the crossover character which straddles multiple storylines. Strange opens the world of magic, mysticism, and the multiverse and I personally think they are setting him up to be a crossover character for multiple storylines. Seeds dropped in this movie including a critical post-credit sequence which might as well be the first scene to the next Marvel movie leave me excited by the possibilities.
Ultimately, go see Doctor Strange and enjoy it – it is a middle of the pack Marvel film and those are generally decent ways to spend an afternoon. However, I personally am hoping for more in further installments and for future directors to make things strange.