Monday, December 12, 2016

Movie Review: Doctor Strange

I finally caught the latest Marvel film, Doctor Strange.  This long-planned theater excursion was delayed by the Thanksgiving holiday, a birthday celebration for a friend, miscellaneous Christmastime fun - and the fact that my usual movie-going friends found the movie, er, strange. That is to say, they saw the trailer and like the slogan from the 1980's called for, they decided to "Just Say No."  So I drove through the cold rain to watch it by myself this afternoon.  (Afterwards, I walked the halls of the adjacent mall ran into a fannish friend as well as a retired co-worker.  Small world.)

Anyhow, onto my impression.  I enjoyed the movie, and felt it was well worth the eight dollars I spent.  The plot maps fairly well to the classic "hero's journey" model, which seems only right for a superhero movie.  I'll delve into details a bit more than I typically do with books, as there will be few spoilers for anybody who has seen the trailer.

The movie divides into roughly four parts, plus prologue and epilogue.  The prologue introduces us very briefly to the villain of the piece, Kaecilius.  In part one, our hero, the eponymous Doctor Stephen Strange, is introduced as a talented but arrogant neurosurgeon.  We see a little of his life before a distracted-driving accident leaves his hands a shattered mess.  Thus begins the second stage, in which he desperately seeks healing to resume his old life.  This seeking leads him to the ends of the Earth.  The third stage is his mystic training.  The fourth, climactic part is when he is, at first unwillingly, drawn into the conflict with the villain Kaecilius.  And finally there's the epilogue, consisting of a mid-credits scene and a post-credits scene.  I'll not discuss the epilogue, other than to mention they're good, and you should watch to the end.

I think each of the parts works fairly well in and of itself.  There's a good, if slow, build up of tension - and thanks to the prologue Kaecilius looms large over the whole story, even if he is totally absent for the first two parts and merely mentioned a few times in the third.  About the only criticism I could level with respect to plot is that the fourth part, the renewed conflict with Kaecilius, feels a little bit rushed.  There's a long, slow build up throughout the movie until the training ends and the conflict begins.  The conflict feels slightly bit rushed by comparison.  I don't think this is a major problem, but it seemed just slightly off to me.

The acting was fairly solid.  The dialogue and characters seemed good, for the most part.  There was a bit of cliche in a few spots, but it wasn't terrible.  I think the actors did a good job portraying the characters, and the writing (cliches aside) had the characters acting in understandable (if not always wise) ways.

The visual effects were quite stunning, but I found myself slightly disoriented in certain scenes. When the world is being visually warped by mystic power such that it seems M. C. Escher was involved, it can be disconcerting.  Still, the effects were excellent, even if they felt on the edge of overwhelming in a few places.

Lastly, there is the red cape.  It is awesome.

The movie was good, but perhaps not quite great.  I'd give it a B+ or a solid A, but not an A+.  It was worth the price and I would definitely recommend watching it.

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