I hate to be a spoilsport but I didn’t particularly like Doctor Strange. I recognize I’m in the small minority here that feels like it isn’t all that it seems to be. It felt Inception-y, especially with all the overlaying of dimensions and cityscapes as well as the walk-on-the-wall thing. Putting the magical aside, Doctor Strange felt too ready to please and lacking in real emotional or moral dilemma that adds layers beyond the blockbuster image. Marvel’s wry sense of humour is evidently present in the film and I enjoyed it. But my interest quivered.
Through some sort of spiritual journey which was in my view, a superficial one, Doctor Strange redeems himself from doctor with a god complex to spiritualized master at one with his soul. For such a serious journey, Marvel’s Doctor Strange has reduced it to an entertainment piece removed from any real moral,psychological nor spiritual tribulations that properly challenge and forge the protagonist. While it is a common trait of superhero movies, it feels more pronounced in Doctor Strange given its dealing with the mystical and the spiritual. So I am surprised at the amount of praise people have been giving this film especially because we complain (and it’s valid) that superhero films stick to the same trite cliches all the damn time.
Dr.Strange is undoubtedly a gamble from Marvel. Being Marvel’s first movie dedicated to the dark arts, it certainly came as a surprise. And it felt like a flop. I was fighting hard to stay awake in the last third of the movie. Part of the disinterest stemmed from fundamentally disinteresting characters and a deficient plot. Mads Mikkelsen’s villainous character was simply there because he wanted to take over the world. Total world domination is getting really old. On the heroes side, Doctor Strange is too easily shooed in as the next protege. Throwing him into Everest and then dedicating less than three minutes of screen time showing his mental ‘resolve’ in conjuring a warphole to save himself is superficial.
In another peculiar scene, Doctor Strange somehow manages to bend time and space easily with sacred charms and the other characters seem to make such a big deal of it. This only mocks the depth of the spiritual arts because we all know this isn’t something you master in a short period of time, if ever. Just because he’s smart enough to get to be a doctor (which the movie makes a big deal of), with a strong sense of determination (through refusing to leave the temple’s doorsteps when first rejected as a student), is far from convincing. Admittedly, the tense first scene showing Dr.Strange and his unfazed attitude should have been further emulated and explored but all we got after that missed way off the mark.
Moving on to other characters, I’m not even sure what Chiwetel Ejiofor’s character is trying to do because he get’s too worked up and it doesn’t fit the tone of the scenes. In the aftermath of the last fight, I’m baffled by his character’s childish idealism…it seems too forced to draw a distinction between him and Doctor Strange, as if to portray Strange as the rightful torchbearer because he’s understands the complexities of the world and is willing to make questionable choices for the greater good. It’s doesn’t add up because if you think about it, Ejiofor’s character although idealistic at first, underwent a change in perspective, and is very likely to go down the road with Strange. So I’m not sure what’s going on.
Now I know there are many of love it. And I will get stick for this but well that’s part of reviewing movies. I simply can’t get past the superficial treatment of deep themes and flashy effects that take away from characterization and plot. Doctor Strange, to put it bluntly, feels very out-of-place in the spiritual sense and definitely not a remotely edifying journey for its hero nor for us.