Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange ★★★★

Yet again, Marvel defies all expectations of stagnation and breaks the mold just enough to feel fresh. Elements of mysticism and spirituality are deftly pinned onto the Marvel formula, artfully contrasted with the definitive modernism superhero films have largely dwelt in. I think most will come away in awe of the chaotic special effects, but for me, the star of Doctor Strange was the brilliant marriage between science and mysticism. It's the classic core dynamic at work within the Strange character; the idea that a world-renowned surgeon, a champion of science and the physical world succumbing to (and mastering) the spiritual one is inherently compelling, a representation of the age-old clash between the two. Doctor Strange successfully finds a medium between these ideas, as our hero himself finds as much power in intellect, reason and insight as he does magical abilities. It was refreshing to see a movie focused on this contrast assert that perhaps, a medium could be reached between the two. These ideas may not be explored with much depth, but the way they are touched on is quite satisfying, and I fear all that is going on around them will drown them out in the end. So here's a little shout-out to Derrickson's handling of what the Dr. Strange character brings to the table thematically.

But back to my opening sentence, Doctor Strange keeps the train right on it's rails. We've gotten a plethora of superhero films over the last decade, and we have a ton more coming. As a lifelong nerd, I couldn't ask for anything else. For those who don't find joy in these properties? You have my sympathies. But the common prediction for the demise of this genre is simply stagnation; that audiences will eventually lose interest in these familiar narratives. But consider, for a moment, where we are. 2016 has been a supremely diverse year for superhero cinema. Like them or not, we got the raunchy Deadpool, self-serious X-Men: Apocalypse, composed and dramatic Civil War, and the (personal favorite) majestic, sweeping and grandiose Batman v Superman. Looking forward into 2017, we are getting the female empowerment piece Wonder Woman, hopefully epic collaboration film Justice League (my body is ready), offbeat and perhaps parody Thor: Ragnarok, the animated Lego: Batman, mortality-focused Logan, revived nostalgia piece Power Rangers, much anticipated Guardians 2 and of course, Spiderman Homecoming which will hopefully revive and reimagine a fan favorite. Apologies for merely listing the upcoming slate of films, but take a look at how different those films all look. Sure, you could crudely shove them all under the simple tag of "superhero movie", but there's more to them than that. The characters we have seen before are being gently prodded, expanded and deepened; finding new angles to attack, new weaknesses to explore. Th studios are trying to switch up the formula, tweak it with efficiency and skill to stimulate us just enough to keep us interested until the next installment. It's methodical and cold, perhaps, but the expected quality of each major blockbuster is comforting, at least for me. Doctor Strange deserves much more discussion and praise for how effective a film it is on it's own, but to me, it's merely proof this genre is very aware of it's own potential demise. We're in the midst of a "cinematic era" of sorts, and I find it fascinating to follow it's evolution. I mostly just feel it's very easy, and very popular to malign what's big, to criticize what dominates the box office year after year. Many forget that there is a very real reason why superhero films have endured, and that's simply because most of them are good. Misfires and all, the average quality from a cinematic standpoint of these films is remarkable, as they have proved to have a high floor and admittedly (though I've been proven otherwise) low ceiling, quality speaking. All I can say in an unusually optimist spirit is, bring it on DC and Marvel. Keep doing you, keep bringing something new to the table. I'll always be in the audience, hoping to enjoy what you are offering.

Also, Mads Mikkelsen.

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