Thursday, June 15, 2017

Quick Review: Doctor Strange

Watched the MCU film Doctor Strange with the family last night. This will not be a full review.
Spoilers follow:

Nuts and Bolts: The cinematographer was Ben Davis of a lot of other Marvel films and a little film called Layer Cake (if you haven't seen it, so see it). He did a great job of making it look Marvel and his framing is always good. Editors were Plisco and Smith wo did a solid job - Plisco's work on Sky Captain obviously helped but Smith's background in music videos seemed to be too used in fight scenes. Spaihts, Derrickson (who also directed), and Cargill wrote it and continue a seeming pattern of Marvel having writers without a ton of screenwriting credits to adapt existing stuff.

Acting: Cumberbatch was solid only showing, not telling, of Strange's progress from self-centered jerk to maybe not quite so self-centered jerk by the end. He also made full-on jerkmode Strange not just believable but engaging, a tough sell. Rachel McAdams did a lot with a little. Swinton obviously knew what she was hired for and delivered in a manner very reminiscent of her work in Orlando 25 years ago. Chiwetel Ejiofore continues his unbroken string of films where he steals scenes out from under his fellow actors.

Opinions On Stuff: The directing was better than I expected (and I had high expectations !) with the actors delivering emotional performances without eating the sets. The writing stayed true to the origin comics amazingly well. I was pleasantly shocked that Strange is not a super-nice guy with all of his issues wrapped up at the end, but rather still working on not being a total jerk - a deft bit of writing, in my opinion, So far Marvel has been really good at getting great writers that can stay true to the source material and still write 'fresh'. The editing was solid, professional, and not my cup of tea. This is subjective, but I like my fights edited Shaw Brothers style and my dialogue edited Coen Brothers style: Doctor Strange swapped that. The way they did it is much more popular, but - like I said, subjective.

Story/Plot/Villains: As mentioned, the writing and the acting combined to show Doctor Strange starting out just like the source material says he should -a hyper-competent doctor who is also an arrogant jerk. His loss and descent are believable and I do like that the writers just got him a few steps down the path to being virtuous for its own sake.
The addition of a macguffin (the rings) was acceptable as a plot device.
The only thing that got me was the villain's real motivation - a guy just hungry for power as a minion of Dormammu would have been more in the comic book style than false hope of eternal life, but that is as subjective as my editing preferences. As written it made sense in-story and Mads Mikkelson sold it, so this is really a fan quibble.

Meta: The discussion of natural law, consequences for the violation of natural law, the analysis of the ethics of ends/means/motive, etc. was well done, well written, and refreshing. How Strange won at the end is very Ditko and was a great climax. I may have to do a theological analysis of the movie!

Overall: 8/10, should see it.

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