Title: Doctor Strange
Genre: Action, Fantasy, Adventure
Director: Scott Derrickson
C. Robert Cargill
based on the comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Music: Michael Giacchino
Cinematography: Ben Davis
DOCTOR STRANGE, this latest MCU addition, officially takes audience to a more cerebral plane of brainy Sci-Fi concepts such as spiritual dimensions, astral world, immortality, eye of Agamotto, time-bending superpower, infinite time loop, etc. through the induction of the esoteric Oriental mystics, passed by The Ancient One (Swinton) in Nepal onto the elite New York neurosurgeon Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch), whose hands have been fatally injured in a car crash, and initially he seeks for a magic cure to grant him a way back to the operation table, before soon he will be saddled with a more challenging responsibility (the Siamese twin of power), to save humanity from ruination. So a resultant reaction from a non-comic reader, there is simply too much to ingest at a clip.
Hubris is Dr. Strange’s fault-line, he has earned himself a God-like competency to save patients under critical conditions and (both inwardly and outwardly) gloats about it. Subtextually, that could be the reason why the goddess of fate and destiny decides to mete out punishment by taking away his ability. Humility is the ultimate salvation he need to foster along with his sorcerous training, it always takes some time for our hero to realize that.
As the introduction piece of Dr. Strange, the movie adopts a common-or-garden narrative arc to detail Stephen’s transformative journey, his romantic tangles with co-worker Christine Palmer (McAdams) serves only as a side dish, but one must give credit to Palmer’s “don’t explain to me what is happening” precept, that is a life-saver, the less she knows, the more likely she will survive in the sequels.
The most enthralling nugget from this 14th entry of MCU is its paradigm-shifting, kaleidoscopic vista (although risking of being a deja-vu from Christopher Nolan’s INCEPTION 2010) juggling with horizontal-vertical landscape mirror shifting, gravity-flouting kung-fu fighting, eye-opening out-of-body experience and stellar astral dimension, where dwells the super-villain Dormammu, who in fact, is devised with a bathetic exit strategy which foregrounds this ever-so-frustrating superhero genre’s ingrained villain quandary, they all must appear too-big-to-fail with their omnipotence and doomsday menace, although no one in the audience would give a second thought about their invariably pre-designed defeat, to a degree it is impossible for deus-ex-machina to be plausibly brought to save the day.
The cast accomplishes a solid job, Cumberbatch is an accent-wizard, and pleasurable enough to keep his Cloak of Levitation in his benevolent mien with a touch of egotism still needs to shed. Ejiofor is underused as Stephen’s mentor-degraded-to-sidekick Karl Mordo, whose loyalty turns sour in the aftermath to anticipate the next chapter (we should never break the law of nature!). Mikkelsen’s Kaecilius is a very Shakespearean villain, excels in his own narcissistic soliloquy (Hannibal style), while his acolytes are not allowed to deliver even one line besides fighting and running. However, it is Swinton’s ageless incarnation as The Ancient One raises the roof, she is a guru, a mystic, a leader, a warrior and an enigma all in the same time, one can only beef why her character should be so unceremoniously dispatched after her indomitable entrance piece, just because her mission is fulfilled after Stephen assumes the mantle? That is a disgrace.
Another solid brick on the MCU’s ever-expanding wall, DOCTOR STRANGE is visually inventive, but story-wise unambitious, yet, his idiosyncratic sorcerer background could be welled mapped out onto a more heterogeneous cinematic scope, to elicit something substantially reinvigorating from an over-familiar, one-dimension confined THE AVENGERS’ assembly.