As I said in my previous review of Spider-Man Homecoming, I find the MCU to be a very 50/50 franchise. It has amazing films and god awful films… But it also has one other type of film; The same type of film that Doctor Strange is: “Meh” films. It’s not good, not bad, it’s just “meh”.
But Doctor Strange is a film of trickery. When I saw this film in the cinema I was in absolute awe, I fell in love with this film and was convinced it was another quality film to add to my Marvel collection. When I bought this on DVD though and saw it a second time, I found myself actually struggling to stay interested. It wasn’t that the film was poorly directed, poorly acted or poorly written; This film succeeds on those fronts. What I came to realise is that there’s absolutely nothing special about this film.
After sometime of thinking why this film disappointed me so much, I came to one final and ultimate conclusion: It is just another generic superhero origin story that we have all seen a thousand times over and should be tired of by now. This film is about a man who gets in an injury and then goes on a search for knowledge and skill to overcome his injury, during which he is introduced to a much bigger world and must take on the responsibility to save the world. Sound like any other film you’ve ever seen? Iron Man? Daredevil? Hell, any action movie ever made?
In fact this films parallels to Iron Man are through the roof. The protagonist is a sassy, witty and skilled rich guy (Tony Stark and Stephen Strange) who has a “sort-of” love interest who we can see he likes, but nothing really ends up happening between them (Pepper Pots and Christine Palmer). They get an injury and find their salvation in some eastern part of the world (Afghanistan and Nepal), where they discover their true potential (To build a weaponised suit and wield magic). After seeing this world, they are introduced to evil that they must take it upon themselves to destroy (The Ten Rings and Kaecilius). During this undertaking they discover these villains were only puppets to a larger, more dangerous villain (Obadiah Stane and Dormammu), who they must then also defeat. Then there is a teaser in the end credits where the character will interact with the Avengers (Tony meets Nick Fury and Strange meets Thor). It’s a copy and paste, essentially. I’ve seen this film before. A thousand times. This formula has been done to death. Even films like Skyfall follow this formula, only they don’t lean on saving the world, but protecting someone or something smaller (M, in the case of Skyfall).
But don’t get me wrong, this film isn’t an awful pile of garbage. I mean, Marvel has made awful piles of garbage and then inserted those into the MCU, but this isn’t one of those films, because this film has some great redeeming qualities.
First the big one: The visual affects in this film are absolutely incredible. The mirror dimension is an incredible place where the sorcerers can manipulate all of reality, basically, and it makes for some epic moments with floating cities, moving buildings and spells that can destroy everything without it affecting the real world. As well as being a great place for the writers to put mass destruction into, without having to worry about Man Of Steel’s the of backlash, it is also a place of infinite possibilities, to stage unique action scenes, and I am really curious about how they will use the mirror dimension in future films, such as possibly Thor 3 and Infinity War.
I will say however, the visuals in space with Dormammu did look a bit cheesy and way over the top. The sequence where Strange is falling forever, when the Ancient One pushes his soul out of his body goes on for about a minute and a half too long. Way too long, I might add. I felt high. I didn’t want to feel high, but I did. But it’s whatever, the rest of the visuals made up for it.
But this film was still so close to being bland. This film was almost as boring as Thor 2, which is an atrocious abomination of a superhero film (But I’ll review that another time), but one thing saved it. That thing was the Time Stone and Strange’s use of it. I fully expected a cliché magic fight to happen between Strange and Dormammu, where Strange would get the crap kicked out of him but would eventually win, like in every other superhero film. However, the writers must have been struck with sudden inspiration during the climax… The concept of Strange using a time loop to forever trap Dormammu is inspired. I didn’t expect it. When Strange died and then came back I was like, “The hell is going on?”, and then I remember feeling oddly satisfied that for the first time, in a long time, I was seeing a superhero use his intelligence and wit to beat the enemy, rather than his ability to punch things or blow things up.
The problem is, however, this is the only part of the movie that tries to be different. Literally every other moment in the film is unoriginal. When the Ancient One traps Strange on Everest to teach him to use his powers quicker, I wasn’t surprised. I’ve seen tough but good-intentioned mentors before, with secrets; Stick in the Daredevil Netflix series is just like this. So aside from the ending, I’ve essentially seen this film a thousand times before only with different characters. It barely avoids being bland. So bland… So, so bland.
I think the cinema experience is why I enjoyed this film so much the first time around. I had the big screen, epic sound systems and I didn’t know what to expect from the film. That type of scenario probably boosted the film up in my mind. Yet as I casually viewed it at home, knowing what to expect with a normal TV and normal sound system, it just wasn’t as impressive and I saw the film more for what it was: An overrated film.
All I could do to react to this film was say “meh”. A solid “meh” is what I said. There was nothing else to say, and I stand by it now. If I had to give a rating, I’d say this film is an average, unimpressive 6/10, but only barely. If not for the ending or fantastic casting of Benedict Cumberbatch, this would be a solid 5/10. Lucky for those writers, they eventually got original.
So here’s the line up of the MCU right now.
- Spider-Man: Homecoming
- Doctor Strange
So far we’ve had a good title and a “meh” title. I don’t know whether to review another good one, or a straight up bad one… We’ll see.