shivver: (Ten with specs)
[personal profile] shivver
A friend of ours who we haven't seen in a while contacted us on Facebook and asked if we wanted to go see Doctor Strange last night, so we did.

The tl;dr version is that it was a decent movie, but disappointing in a lot of ways, and while we eventually will buy the blu-ray, it won't be until the price comes down. (That's how you can tell how much we enjoy a movie - how fast we'll buy the blu-ray and how much we'll pay for it. Deadpool was on pre-order. Thor: Dark World was purchased after the price came down. We'll never buy Iron Man 2 or Iron Man 3, and probably will never buy Doctor Who series 8 and 9.) But I'd say see it - you'll probably like it more than I did. Be sure to stay for BOTH post-credit scenes.

Spoilers behind the cut.


The visuals were gorgeous. The plot was very standard - asshole expert surgeon loses his ability to do surgery in an accident, goes to Nepal to find a way to heal himself, learns under an ancient wise one to overcome his assholiness and saves the world. I have no problem with a standard hero's journey kind of story like that, and in fact, I like that type of story. The problem is that it just wasn't done that well.

Strange is a neurosurgeon who revels in the fact that he's the best there is at pretty much everything, and he was supposed to be abrasive, condescending, and insulting so that he had a lot to accomplish on his journey of discovery, and if the comic books are anything to go by, he's never supposed to become a truly good, sociable, nice person. However, it felt like the writer either never felt comfortable making the character unlikable until he learns (like Hermione was in HP1 until she finally becomes friends with Harry and Ron) or he just didn't know how to make a likable asshole (like Tony Stark). In the film, many characters tell Strange his character flaws, but he rarely convincingly displays them, and not for lack of trying. In one scene Strange co-opts another doctor's patient because he sees that patient is not dead and wants to show off that he's better than the other doctor, but it feels far more that he did so to save the patient's life, so much so that later in the movie, another character has to explain his real reasons out loud. While the film was trying to establish that Strange was disdainful of everyone and they all hated him (or were jealous of him), it had too much easy banter between Strange and his colleagues and Palmer. From the first part of the movie, you get the impression that Strange is just this normal guy that's a bit too full of himself.

Then he gets in an accident (which was completely his own fault), loses the use of his hands, and cannot come to terms with the fact that he no longer can do what he prided himself in. This was probably the best character part of the film, as he struggles to heal, finds he cannot do so, and despairs. This brings him to the cadre of sorcerors under the Ancient One, who takes him in to teach him, and this is where the hero's journey breaks down. Once he becomes a pupil, he's brilliant, reading and remembering every detail, but not really getting it - like Hermione, he's great at the book learning, but doesn't have that ability to see beyond. So, in about three separate scenes, the Ancient One tells him that he needs to surrender to power in order to master it, learn that it isn't all about him, and overcome his arrogance. Then, bad guys attack and he's losing, and then click, he gets it and wins (or holds out until backup arrives).

What you don't see in there is him actually learning. He never actually encounters the negative results of his arrogance; he's simply told what he needs to learn and then later, we have to assume he learned it just in time to save himself from being killed. I contrast this to Iron Man, in which Tony Stark is his usual playboy millionaire genius who assumes his company is doing good and wonderful things, then gets kidnapped and sees that his weapons are being smuggled to terrorist groups for use against innocent civilians, and he learns through his experience that he has do something about it. He's never told that - he figures it out on his own and changes himself in response. So basically, this film came down to a bland character who doesn't really grow throughout the film. He was a great surgeon at the beginning, and he was a great sorceror at the end, and the middle really didn't mean much.

Don't get me wrong, though. Overall, I did enjoy the film. It just wasn't great.

There was humor in the film, though in a lot of cases, it was awkward and misplaced, as if they thought that Strange should have more of a Star Lord feel. The humor worked a lot better when it wasn't Strange doing it. (Not BC's fault, though - he did a fine job with not much to work with.)

Probably the most disappointing part of the whole film - and everyone is going to disagree with me here - was the magic. It was visually stunning, yes, with the gorgeous sigils and the buildings and cities folding in on themselves, but it wasn't at all what I'd hoped from this film. Let me explain.

I think you probably know by now that I love sci-fi, superheroes, and high fantasy. So, I go to Captain America to see Cap punch and kick and throw his shield. I go to Iron Man to see the suit form over Tony Stark and then he shoots missiles and lasers at the bad guy. I go to Deadpool to see punchies and kickies and guns and katanas.

What do I see in Doctor Strange? Punching and kicking and swords. That's it. Where was the actual magic - the fireballs, the energy waves, the bindings, the polymorphing, the ethereal whirlpools, whatever you can think of? There were only three kinds of magic depicted in the film - conjuring of weapons or shields, folding of space, and time magic (though the use of that one was forbidden) - and so the combat scenes boiled down to sorcerors smacking or stabbing each other until one of them gets sick of it and starts to fold space and runs off, and the sorceror who isn't folding space at the time runs away or pursues the folder while trying not to fall in holes. It was the most gorgeously choreographed and rendered but least imaginative magic movie ever.

And there's the problem. I sat through two hours of a story that's been done a lot better before, about a character who's too afraid to be the asshole he needs to be to make the story work, set in a world of magic in which said magic is used only to dress up the terrain and make the swords and shields glow. I will admit that the final scene and solution was very cool, but it was the shining cap of an epic that never quite got there.

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