Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange ★★★

Origin stories have always been a tricky devices for me to appreciate, notably in the realm of comic book films, as it feels like we are treated to explore the backstories of these individuals in rich detail as a piece of necessity, it becomes an obligation that comes with its own sets of rigid qualities, putting the audience through familiar narrative beats and at times, melodramatic details of the character that would prove crucial in future instalments and enrich the world and emotional depth of its protagonist. No doubt that an introduction to the character is quite important, as without any established context for audience to anchor onto later would leave the product feeling hollow and disengaging. It is not to my surprise that Doctor Strange endures through similar personal quibbles.

Films like Captain America: The First Avenger, Ant-Man, and even DC’s Batman Begins don’t grab onto me with as tightly as it should due to the fact that the usage of these characters become a chore rather than exhilaratingly imaginative. It is seeing these characters still unrealised that makes the film all the more underwhelming, entering upon the cinema hoping to somehow feel empathy or crave the desire to analyse and be enlightened of his or her arc, a quality that seems only earned in the sequels of these origins, where the writers and actors have gained a greater traction for the material itself. Only characters that already possess a backstory that I am personally interested in, possibly through reading the comics or just pop-culture in general, that I could be more forgiving.

Though, this is not to say that Doctor Strange is a slice of a hopeless tragedy. Much like most of the other Marvel films, it is still crafted with a competent assembly that would decently satisfy even the most cynical of film viewers. The film’s visuals remain top-tier, showcasing impressive action sequences and accessible violence, indulging on the film’s mystical and ethereal motifs, placing upon a neat twist on its spaces of confrontation. Benedict Cumberbatch is interesting as the titular character, more so on his performance than the content of his character, making most out of its rigid structure. Also, the addition of Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One provides, again, another turn of the stereotypical mentor figure, playing upon a role with a far less strict and condescending manner.

However, the film does not push itself to rise above the mediocrity that has been established by its studio, a safe zone that only become slightly pushed when worked upon its more alternative projects like Guardians of the Galaxy. The weight of its origin is still a burden on the shoulders, as we watch different circumstances on an individual that would yield far too familiar results, and certain relationships with the character simply lacked the needed impact that would have added that particular energy and emotion that would have the audience genuinely care for them; take for example the addition of Rachel McAdams’ Christine Palmer and Michael Stuhlbarg’s Nicodemus West, both adding very little to the importance of their presence in his life, a factor that contributed by the gaps of the writers and distraction from the director. They are assets that are limited to the summarisation of their roles, providing only a minute of conflict or passion in individual scenes rather than anything substantial that would shape our views or the progression of its protagonist.

It would be interesting to see what would become of Doctor Strange in future endeavours, where the weight of mapping his history would no longer be a significant factor in its storytelling, as potentially, interesting places could be explored with such a character, both from a development and visual stand point, playing an exciting role for the upcoming conflicts in Infinity War.

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