Marvel, with this wonderful Doctor Strange film, has done what the former Wachowski brothers failed to do with that intensely awful Jupiter Ascending. Stan Lee’s comic book company-turned-movie-maker creating a new Matrix film by utilizing a secondary character from the repertoire of ‘the house of ideas,’ while also engineering a terrific opening into the world of the mystic masters.
Dr. Stephen Vincent Strange may have been a minor player compared to Doctor Donald Blake (alter ego of the Mighty Thor, and keep that in mind when watching this film for a surprise) but when he finds his relic – or when his relic finds him – the fun starts.
Is it a perfect film? No, and my hope going in was that it would be. However, Doctor Strange is a very, very good movie and takes the world of Computer-generated imagery (CGI – which started expanding its role in films with 1984’s The Last Starfighter, ) into another dimension. Harry Potter meets the Wachowski creations: Neo and Morpheus and Deus Ex Machina in this exciting and fast-paced film, much more impressive than Justin Lin’s Star Trek: Beyond. Director Scott Derrickson, who misfired with 2008’s The Day the Earth Stood Still, gets it right this time. Remember, it was Keanu Reeves in Stood Still, so the Marvel Films plan is obvious …and not a bad way to introduce the good doctor to the world.
The biggest problem is that you’ve got Dormammu from the Dark Dimension looking and sounding like a cheesy version of Deus Ex Machina from the Matrix – as bizarre a let-down as the esoteric film rendition of the embodiment of Galactus in the Fantastic Four / Silver Surfer movie that was almost…getting there…oops, more than a misfire than Day the Earth Stood Still. You’ve also got the Ancient One morphed into a feminine Morpheus – Tilda Swinton (the “white witch” from 2005’s The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) doing an excellent job and replacing the wise-old-man with a vibrant young woman – along with actor Benedict Cumberbatch slipping in comfortably as his Dr. Strange plays it Neo.
One of the “mystic masters” also explains how the spells are to be thought of as computer programs, so that they are blatantly going for that audience the Wachowski sisters (yes, they’ve both transitioned to women) abandoned. Which is fine with this critic as the themes of the Matrix have a huge audience with a need to explore those avenues. Folding buildings, worlds within worlds, swashbuckling, all the elements Stan Lee and Marvel developed one half a century ago, build a fantastical picture that the 3D (and presumably iMax, which was not available for our early screening) enhance… in fact, the film enhances the 3D experience, validating its existence. Dr. Strange doesn’t use 3D to be part of a fad or a trend. It’s just expected that you need this perception to get a better feel for the landscape. And perception fits in nicely with Stan Lee’s Alfred Hitchcock-styled cameo in this one. Quite sure that I will be back to the theater to see this one again, and soon.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com, Gatehouse Media, Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a seventeen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed Jodie Foster, director/screenwriter David Koepp, Michael Moore, John Cena, comics/actors Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Gallagher, musicians Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, political commentator Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.