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Doctor Strange: A Triumph of Visual Style

I have never read a Doctor Strange comic. There, I said it. I am an enormous comic book fan, but I have never even deigned to pick up an issue. The reason being this; Strange has always been too well, strange for me. His immense, and undefinable power has never attracted my interest, and I’ve often wondered how a “sorcerer supreme” could be the source of any decent storytelling. Well, thanks to Scott Derrickson, I wonder no longer.

While bearing many of the telltale signs of the MCU, Dr. Strange is a rather unique organism. While an orgin story, it is not one of physical strength, or endowment of immense power, but one of magical study. Yes, that’s right, magic. Not science we don’t understand yet, pure, honest-to-goodness. abra-cadabra, hocus-pocus, magic. Dr. Strange, a self-absorbed medical genius, is confronted with an existential crisis, in which he must humble himself, and learn an entirely new profession. Cumberbatch plays excellently, a man who’s entire world comes crashing down upon him, and who must remake himself as a new man.

The love interest, a crucial component of any Marvel origin story, surprisingly turns out to be one of the most compelling parts of the film. Christine, Strange’s ex-lover, is there the entire film, not as a romantic counterpart, but as a friend, and several times as a savior. There is love between the two of them, but divergent from the Marvel norm, the kiss at the end of the movie, is one on the cheek.

The movie is though, carried almost solely by its action. This is the most unique and entertaining part of the film. Buildings fold in upon themselves, capes put men in chokeholds, and portals are used as a weapon in combat. But in my humble opinion, the best action sequence s the scene in which while being operated upon, Dr. Strange engages in astral combat with his enemy. It encompasses the movie perfectly. It is brutal and unrelenting, and totally unseen by the world we live in. It is hard to understand, and confusing; the physics of the astral world are left mostly unexplained, and the viewer must figure out for themself what the combatants will or won’t pass through. Most of all, its funny. Christine’s baffled expressions as objects crash around the room are hysterical.

Like I said before, I had no expectation of enjoying Doctor Strange, but I did, Immensely. Simply because it is so delightfully different. Marvel has realized that in this golden age of comic book movies, a tonal differentiation is required for a movie to be fresh and engaging. This is an excellent call on their part. While Doctor Strange’s manipulation of reality as a cinematic technique can be a bit shticky at times, its definitely fun to watch


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