While Nate provided us with his fantastic early review of Marvel’s newest sensation, Doctor Strange, on Thursday, the rest of the Psycho Drive-In All-Stars had a few things to say, as well. Buckle up, True Believers, for a psychedelic love-fest the likes of which this dimension has never seen! The greatest thing about Doctor Strange for me is the expansion of the MCU into yet another genre. We finally have a film series underway that understands all the implications and vast scope of the Marvel-ous genre hodgepodge that dates back to the 1960s Kirby/Lee heyday. We’ve got space opera (GOTG), hot and cold war epics (Captain America, Iron Man), ensemble apocalypses (Avengers), and aliens so powerful as to have become myths (Thor). Linking it all together are the Infinity Stones, which might be science or magic, which can defy life and death, that can create mutants (or Inhumans) and challenge gods and other celestial avatars. We’ve come a long way from superheroes being treated as goofy cartoons, even to the point of having actually clever quips in the script for genius geeks like Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, Peter Parker and now Stephen Strange to deliver with aplomb. We’re into the mystic now as well, and what other universe out there gives us all these genres at once in a shared tapestry? Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One gives the mind-expanding guided tour through the realms of possibility to desperate initiate Strange in her Tibetan temple, and it’s a mind-expander for us as well. The FX in the film recall Inception and 2001 at different moments, but Cumberbatch’s performance always anchors us to his quest for improvement and healing. We exult in his success when he fights for his life on the astral plane, and we mourn with him for the final solution he’s forced to take. Supporting roles in the film are admirably taken by Chewitel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Rachel McAdams and Benedict Wong, and the character dynamics were clearly worked out in advance so they could be delivered swiftly in the midst of action scenes. Which is exactly what happens when Kaecilius starts attacking the three sanctums (London, New York, Hong Kong) that protect the Earth from mystic attack and Stephen is thrown into battle untried and unprepared. But he has a knack for it, and Cumberbatch makes that work, too, even showing chemistry with the sentient cloak that surges towards Stephen at first sight when he teleports to Bleecker St. Who needs a love story between Claire Palmer and Doctor Strange when you have Man and Cloak bonded to the death? As the Ancient One says, “it’s fickle.” She also says that no-one is ever ready when their moment comes, and I doubted this movie was from the unpromising trailers, but I’m happy to find it was way ahead of me all along. — Shawn Hill Marvel Studios has discovered some sort of timeless alchemy that allows them to craft stories that probably won’t surprise you at all with their narrative twists and turns, but still feel extremely satisfying when the dust settles. Brilliant casting, even for one-and-done villains and/or side characters helps, as do scripts that somehow find the perfect balance between light-hearted cleverness and apocalyptic seriousness. Sure the love interest and the villain are both underwritten, the jokes are sometimes a little forced, and the Big Bad is a remarkably disappointing visual effect, but damn if this film doesn’t get under your skin and make you want to watch it over and over. The transitions from our world into other dimensions are CG freakouts that match or surpass the trippiest of trippy effects from 2001 through Inception. And when it comes time for the grand finale, the film has the smarts to undercut our expectations and give us a climax that relies on brains instead of brawn. Doctor Strange is quite literally a film that shouldn’t have a broad appeal, especially when the plot doesn’t really rise too terribly far above what was used for the 1978 TV movie. But it’s not about the plot, but the presentation. It’s not the destination, but the journey. And in 3D, this film is solid as fuck. The expansion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe into first the cosmic, and now the mystical is as flawlessly executed as it was done in the comics back in the early 60s. At this point, I don’t think there’s anything Marvel Studios can do that will fall flat. — Paul Brian McCoy Remember when Guardians of the Galaxy first came out and everyone was thinking, “This is it; this is gonna be the first time Marvel strikes out.” Then the haters said it again with Ant-Man. And just before Doctor Strange, people again were asking, “Is this going to be Marvel’s first failure?” I mean magic in the superhero movies don’t work. *Cough* Suicide Squad Enchantress. *Cough* Well two screenings of Doctor Strange later, all I have to say is maybe it’s time people stop worrying about a possible Marvel failure and just appreciate the time we live in for Superhero movies? Doctor Strange follows the story of Stephen Strange, a Tony Stark-like doctor played to perfection by Benedict Cumberbatch. We follow Strange from the height of his career as a brain surgeon to the low point of his life after having his hands suffer severe nerve damage from a car accident. Don’t text and drive kids. After traditional medicine fails, he files off to Nepal to seek out the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) in order to try a new way to heal himself. Doctor Strange is a movie that works because it follows the Marvel formula well. The movie has great casting, with a director who seems born to direct the movie and a script that doesn’t come off as too nerdy for mainstream audiences and not too mainstream for nerdy audiences. The greatest strength of Doctor Strange is the cast. Every actor and actress in this movie is fantastic; you want to see more of them. The cast also has amazing on-screen chemistry, which is a rare feat to pull off. Cumberbatch plays so well off of everyone in the film. Regardless of if he is on screen with Benedict Wong, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton, or Chiwetel Ejiofor, the cast gives the audience characters that we can believe in an unbelievable world. And the random appearance of Benjamin Bratt helps him get over the superhero hangover that was Catwoman. Now before I go any further in this review let’s take the time to discuss watching this movie in 3D vs 2D. As a person of Earth, after watching Doctor Strange in both 3D and 2D, I can honestly say you have to watch this film in 3D. I’m not saying you won’t enjoy the movie in 2D, I’m saying you will fully appreciate everything director Scott Derrickson did in this movie in 3D. The action sequences in London and New York are great in 2D, but they’re breathtaking in 3D with the ways the scenery moves and morphs in front of your eyes. Derrickson uses 3D as it should be used, as a tool to enhance the depth of a scene. Unlike other 3D movies were they have things blow up in your face and have Megatron point a gun right at the screen, Strange uses the 3D to embrace you into the mystic world, literally. The special effects in this movie are so good they turned a cloak into an important character. The only faults I have with Doctor Strange may come off as nit-picking but they are still valid points. I know walking into a Marvel movie there is going to be humor. Everyone loves a superhero quip, but I think in Strange the humor doesn’t work at times. There are a few moments where a moment happens, it feels epic, then we get some unneeded humor. They needed to let our senses breathe without a joke. The final nit-pick is there is a lot of exposition in this movie, more so than a normal superhero film. There is a character who feels like their sole purpose in the film is to explain things to Strange and the audience. All in all, Doctor Strange is a good movie, just outside of the greatest of Marvel films. I believe they did a great job of their main goal: getting magic into the MCU. Watch out for Chiwetel Ejiofor as Baron Mordo; I got a feeling if Marvel plays their cards right they will have their next great character. — Eric Muller Doctor Stephen Strange has lost his life and his way, time to save the multiverse! In Marvel’s latest addition to the MCU, we get to see a more spiritual side to the superhero game. With a compelling narrative and gorgeous effects, Doctor Strange is a feast for the mind and senses. I didn’t have a lot of expectations going into the latest project in Marvel’s ever-expanding cinematic universe. I had some small experience with the character, seeing him in bit parts in various video games, other comics, and an animated attempt sometime in 2007. What I knew going in was that the basic backstory of Doctor Stephen Strange is of a brilliant surgeon who, due to an unfortunate accident, is robbed of the use of his hands. Seeking any and all treatment that might restore his damaged hands and career, Doctor Strange eventually finds solace in an ancient temple where he is taught the world is not as he has always assumed. Thus starts his journey into a world of magic and multidimensional threats. The movie keeps that basic narrative intact, painting a picture of a conceited and talented doctor who does what he wants, and listens to nobody’s voice but his own. He has a small soft spot for his ex-girlfriend/co-worker Christine Palmer. I don’t know how integral her role was in the comics, but in the movie she acts as a sort of vocal conscience for Doctor Strange, one he doesn’t listen to until, of course, it’s far too late. The extra-universal threat comes from a being called Dormammu, who wants to consume Earth and its dimension to add it to his collection. Benedict Cumberbatch is great in general, and he brings his own brand of manic energy to the role of Doctor Strange. That energy doesn’t always serve him well, and early in the film, it’s almost impossible to like the cocky Doctor who doesn’t seem to care about anything but his reputation as a surgeon. When all that is taken away, he never softens, instead, becoming obsessed, almost to the point of mania, with repairing his damaged hands. When he is finally humbled it almost seems like a switch is flipped, and he goes from a wise-cracking arrogant ass to a genteel scientist obsessed with acquiring knowledge. While Cumberbatch pulls off each state well, at times it’s hard to see how he gets there. Still, his sudden change of heart could be linked to the extremely psychedelic experiences he’s put through in a relatively short span of time. Speaking of psychedelic experiences, I would issue a small warning to anyone intending to see this movie while inebriated in any form. The visuals are a twisting kaleidoscope of bright colors and shifting topography. Each magical effect has a similar design, suggesting their shared discipline while still being unique and creative in their execution. There are energy whips, fans, shields, blades, gravity tricks and much, much more. While a treat for the eyes, in certain scenes it does make it hard to tell where the action is taking place. Shifting scenery and bouncing bad-guys sometimes makes it hard to tell who is where doing what. When you’re not being distracted by magical guys trying to beat the crap out of each other, Doctor Strange has time to stop taking itself so seriously. Jokes are liberally peppered throughout, often highlighting some of the more ridiculous aspects of the supernatural world these characters inhabit. His cloak is a special treat, adding visual gags to various verbal ones that lighten the dark, world-ending mood that continues to try and break its way into that universe. It’s not just jokes that are sprinkled around, but various subtle hints to events in Captain America: Civil War, Thor, and both Avengers movies. With awesome effects, a tightly written script, and a killer cast, Doctor Strange does not disappoint. It even alludes to the upcoming Infinity War. With a whole new pantheon of heroes and villains now introduced into the MCU, I’m excited to see what they do next. — Jeffrey Roth If I was Sorcerer Supreme with absolute mastery over my astral form, you want to know what I would have done this past weekend? I would have followed Steve Ditko around his Midtown West neighborhood in the hopes that he would have ventured into a movie theater. Then I could have seen the man’s face when the things he envisioned half a century ago burst out of the screen. But that doesn’t happen until the second hour of Doctor Strange. The first half of the movie is the most personal, character-driven Marvel film since Robert Downey, Jr. built that first clunky suit and shambled out of a cave. Much like RDJ’s role in the success of that first Iron Man movie, this one rests squarely on Benedict Cumberbatch’s powerful presence. As fans of Sherlock can attest, Cumberbatch has a rare (possibly unique) ability to make arrogance look good. Stephen Strange tiptoes up to the edge of the pit of hubris, but it’s never without warrant. He’s simply the best at what he does. He’s always the smartest man in the room. Being able to portray a character like that while still making him heroic and worthy of an audience’s sympathy is a high wire act. No. Scratch that. It’s a tightrope walk without a net over a waterfall swarming with hungry radioactive piranha. With laser beams attached to their dorsal fins. But Cumberbatch walks it with quiet confidence. The first half of this movie is a deeply personal portrait of a terribly lonely man at the very peak of his profession. The second half is when the acid kicks in. The human element is still there to drive the story, but the doors of perception swing wide and we are treated to a cinematic experience unlike anything we’ve seen (apart from that time with the mushrooms, but we don’t really need talk about that). As stunning as the visuals are, they smack a familiar chord. What could it be? Let’s see… Oh, could it be a comic book from before I was born? Hold on; take a moment to let this sink in: it has taken the film industry FIVE DECADES to catch up with the kind of visual storytelling that happened in comic books. Well, at least in comic books that were being drawn by Steve Ditko. I know he co-created Spider-Man and designed the most instantly recognizable body-stocking in the history of body-stockings, but I’ll always be partial to the mad psychedelia of his Dr. Strange (not to mention his short run on the original Shade the Changing Man series at DC Comics). To sum up, Bennie was great. Tilda was great. Everybody involved with this movie did an excellent job of pulling together the basic fibers of what will likely spool out the next phase (or two) of this ever-expanding cinematic universe. The story of our hero’s journey would likely have given Joseph Campbell a semi. But more than all of that, this particular viewer appreciated the implicit love letter to the great Steve Ditko it represents. I can only hope he gets the credit he’s due. — Rick Shingler Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.