Doctor Strange (2016)
The impossibilities are endless.
Two Marvel flicks in a row from the guy whose already stated numerous times before that he's burnt out on superhero movies? Yeah, well, stuff happens and the queue gives what the queue wants really. I also like to try and shuffle things in batches, so people don't get confused. It's a trippy digital world out there, with buildings that bend it like Beckham and alternate universes around every corner, and every little bit helps. Lets circle-ring our way into a universe where magic is simply funneling energy from other dimensions and gods are sort of just technologically advanced aliens to see if this strange doctor can put on a good show.
Doctor Strange as a character is unlikable for a good portion of the movie - largely it's beginning pre-magic act. This isn't really so much a negative on the movie - as a person not huge into comics, it's my understanding that's the character at that point there too - but it does mean that there is gonna be one heck of a character change to make you actually care about the character at all. By the end of the movie, it's true he does become more likable, but the sad reality for me is that I like his cape more than him - which shouldn't be taken as a jab at the acting of the character. No, old Benedict does a great job playing this character, spitting out doctor-grade mumbo jumbo and then later equally as ridiculous sounding magical mumbo jumbo. A fan of Cajun food would love the language of this movie, I swear.
So yeah, acting is pretty decent - as one would expect. Visually, the overall presence of things seemed to be a bit darker (perhaps "shadowy") than what I would have originally thought this movie would be. Now, this doesn't mean the tone is darker - sure the first part while we still have doctor Jerkface is kinda down in the dumps, but it picks up the tone later and even that beginning section has some jokes to try and liven it up. The jokes will vary in mileage, with one of them being rather reminiscent of a running joke gag in Predator, in which one character tries to get the other to laugh (although mayhaps not quite as obvious in this one as it was in there). I'll be honest, the jokes mostly have an equal rate of laughs as the actions of Strange's cape after it enters the movie, so there's a good six or so total moments that you should at least crack a smile one way or the other.
The doctor isn't here to crack you up though, no. He's here to wow you with all his snazzy effects. Although the visuals felt rather dark - not AvP:R grades of dark though - the effects work is still pretty well on point in this movie. One might say it's probably the most effects-focused movie I've seen in the Marvel entries thus far. Sure, we've had shrinking people and flying robots, but there it's still the characters that are on point. Here, it feels like we are meant to just plain be dazzled as we take an acid trip roller coaster through space and colors and shapes. We see cities collapse on themselves like something out of Inception right before breaking down into some M.C. Escher digital rendition. We see glowing things with all sorts of symbols popping out of the air, and invisible sword-spears flying around. More than anything else, this movie feels like it's about the spectacle - and thankfully in that regard when things pick up it delivers pretty darn well.
Yes, there is a plot here - although it's getting to the point that I've seen enough movies it's getting hard to feel like any introductory good guy vs bad guy movie is unique beyond the aesthetics of presentation and depth of acting on display. Good guys an egotistical jerk, gets hurt, inadvertently ends up finding in himself someone that isn't a self centered butt-hole and ends up in a position where he needs to save the world. If you want to water it down to the basics, you've seen this plot before - but again, the presentation of it this time is different. I had no real interest in Doctor Strange before this movie, and I don't have any increased one after seeing the plot, but at this point the origin story is rarely the best entry as far as uniqueness goes into any hero story. I will give it credit though that it flows together fine, even though it may be hard for some to really get a sense of time for any of the things going on here.
When it comes to audio, there's a few things to mention. Overall, it's pretty good - you can hear line deliveries, background sounds come off nice and balanced, and there's a good amount of zappiness to the magic. Where things get a bit more negative is where I find myself really starting to agree with one of my friends comments about the Marvel Universe - all the music really sounds quite samey. At one point during the movie, during a climactic moment when the music was really picking up, I actually thought to myself "wait a second, isn't this from the climactic part of that other movie?" I can understand wanting things to be nice and similar across all your entries, but putting out at least that one song per character that really strikes an individual node would be a nice thing too. He's a wizard, right? Maybe throw in some of the really less common instruments that you might here from something like a Tibetan folk band or something and emphasize that uniqueness from the canned big-orchestral set pieces. A person might not recall every single song individually from the Matrix movies due to their similarity, but it still has those cues and a few songs that really stand out.
Something else that really stands out in the "make me happy" field is the run time. A simple hour and half is essentially all you need from start to finish. I long for the return to the one point five being the normal (although for sure, let your directors cuts go as long as you want) showings of movies. It can really help to make a movie feel a lot more motivated and less rambling. As is expected from a M.U. movie so far down the chain, we do have references to a couple of different other movie events - although they again here don't feel like anything is required watching. You could come into this as your first of the franchise and still feel right at home - well, as right at home as you can in a plot with wizards using magically conjured weapons to try and kill each other to prevent or bring forth the giant face from dark space. Costumes are quite nice as well - which I realize now I failed to mention previously. It is sort of funny to think there's all these characters wandering around normal modern streets dressed like some kind of warrior monk - but at least the "normal" people on the streets do cast them glances that would reflect what a person seeing that might do.
While certainly not replacing my favorite Marvel flick anytime soon, this one came out pretty good. I'd say it's funnier than I expected, although it's main strong point and seeming focal point is impressive visuals. The movie has a 3D version, although I declined watching it for this review because - quite frankly - I just don't seem to get the most out of 3D effects anyways and was already suffering enough of a headache before coming into a movie and adding the eye strain of modern electronic 3D glasses to the mix seemed a bad idea. That being said, for people who do tend to be really susceptible to the effect I could see this being a must-see in it due to the three or four incredibly nutty scenes of effects. Honestly, I expect that eventually I will re-watch it in the third dimension myself, and at the very least the space scenes I feel will really stand out. It's a decent movie, Marvel fans have already probably seen it and don't even need to read this thing, other people will probably enjoy it because it's a decently put together movie with some pretty good acting and brain-melting collapsing worlds. Some people might want to take some medication first though, cause woo doggy is it a trip.