Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Review: Doctor Strange (first-pass)

Doctor Strange (3D / first-pass / SPOILER-FREE)
Cert: 12A / 115 mins / Dir. Scott Derrickson / Trailer

And there was me being so distracted by the upcoming Rogue One that Marvel's latest entry into their ongoing canon sort of snuck up on me. Sort of.

The new offering sticks largely to the format as expected (why gamble when you've got no sign of a losing hand?), but is more rooted in the mystical side of the continuity. One where armoured suits still exist, but focusing on the magic that's merely science the characters don't yet understand. Despite the frequent brain-bending visuals, the film never quite goes full-Inception, although it does often feel like M.C. Escher got drunk and rebooted Harry Potter. Structurally, the narrative is on solidly familiar ground*1, which helps to keep everything flowing smoothly.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton shine in their roles as the eponymous Doctor and The Ancient One respectively. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Benedict Wong make the most of their supporting slots, as does Mads Mikkelsen. Rachel McAdams puts in a good turn as far as she's able, but feels slightly wasted in the film, to be honest.

As mentioned, Doctor Strange takes place within Marvel's Cinematic Universe framework of course*2, and while references to the other movies and characters are fleeting, they do feel like they're being presented to the audience as a reward/reminder, a little. Tonally, the film lies somewhere between the dimension-hopping disorientation of Thor: The Dark World and the humorous stellar-agoraphobia of Guardians Of The Galaxy. Director Scott Derrickson balances the action, danger and sense of fun well enough, although any philosophy the film might have been aiming for seems truncated by a run-time of just under two hours. Although after the lengthy and action-packed continuity admin of Civil War, this movie is a nice change of pace for the series.
But these are just my first impressions. Doctor Strange is a movie which is going to take a few viewings to properly sink in…

The business-end:

• Is there a Wilhelm Scream? I didn't hear one.
• Is there a Stan Lee cameo? Yes.
• Is there a mid-credits scene? Yes.
• Is there a post-credits scene? Yes.

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Other movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Inception.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
Yep. In 3D too, if you can bear the light-loss.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
It does, but I'd have liked it to make that achievement with about an extra 20-30 minutes of run-time.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
In terms of the cast, no, but director Scott Derrickson is better known for his mass-market horror fare, so most likely yes.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
You'll have to justify yourself.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
I didn't hear one.
But let's not rule it out

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Galen Erso is in this.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 And speaking of familiar, composer Michael Giacchino is on score-duties here and seems to have loved his own Star Trek theme so damned much that he's retooled it as the recurring motif in Doctor Strange. Don't worry lads, it's only going to be geeks watching this; they won't notice…

*2 It's also interesting to note that the ever-evolving Marvel Studios ident at the beginning of the film has now dispensed with the flickering comic-panels (other than the first couple of seconds) and is comprised of their MCU screen properties. While they can hardly deny their comic-book roots, is this a sign that the company now views the cinematic stories as the definitive versions? Discuss.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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