August 19, 2017

“Doctor Strange” successfully manipulates superhero formula

Benedict Cumberbatch is pictured center as 'Doctor Strange.' The image comes from Disney's promotional material for the film.

Corey Vikser
Chief Online Editor

Profound, psychedelic and philosophical are not adjectives one would typically use to describe a superhero film, but Marvel’s newest feature “Doctor Strange” excels in all three qualities.

doctor-strange-movie-composer-cumberbatch
In a day and age where superhero films often feel like they’ve been written by a committee, “Doctor Strange” excels in having a unique voice.

“Doctor Strange” represents a much welcomed deviation to the “Marvel formula,” as the film delves into areas no other superhero film has ever gone before. Featuring Oscar-worthy visual effects, a compelling plotline and well-developed characters, Doctor Strange is a must see for both casual moviegoers and die-hard comic fans.

Directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister), “Doctor Strange” focuses on Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a famous New York doctor who loses function of his hands after a devastating car crash. Desperate for a cure, Strange travels to a monastery in Nepal rumored to mystically reverse any ailment. Upon meeting “The Ancient One”, (Tilda Swinton), Strange begins practicing the art of sorcery, quickly becoming entangled in a worldwide conflict.

 Promotional photos for Doctor Strange

In a day and age where superhero films often feel like they’ve been written by a committee, “Doctor Strange” excels in having a unique voice. The film communicates complex subjects, such as alternate dimensions and manipulation of reality, with a sense of ease that any filmgoer can understand.

In a day and age where superhero films often feel like they’ve been written by a committee, “Doctor Strange” excels in having a unique voice.”

Even more surprising are the profound philosophical discussions the film evokes. The crux of “Doctor Strange”’s central conflict is centered around what it truly means to be alive, and finding pride in the concept of mortality and death. These topics provide a compelling justification to the conflict, giving meaning both to the antagonists’ goals and battle scenes throughout.

Not only is the plot compelling, but the characters in Doctor Strange are much more complex than normal superhero fodder. Although Strange himself fulfills typical protagonist tropes, the supporting characters defy expectations. “Doctor Strange” doesn’t depict a clear-cut “good vs. evil,” as characters on both sides of the film’s conflict have justified arguments and complicated motivations. By challenging typical tropes, the writers create memorable, three dimensional characters.

Far distanced from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Strange” contains a sense of freshness and unpredictability in a franchise where filmgoers often know the plot to the next 3 films before even seeing the first one. Aside from a brief name reference, “Doctor Strange” is completely dissociated from the Avengers, allowing for a self-contained story that viewers don’t have to be familiar with prior films to understand.

Tilda Swinton and Benedict Cumberbatch in
Tilda Swinton and Benedict Cumberbatch in “Doctor Strange.” Courtesy of manapop.com

The visual effects in “Doctor Strange” are absolutely unprecedented, as the effects team combines kaleidoscopic visuals and psychedelic hallucinations with startling realism. CGI effects are come and go in today’s blockbuster environment, but “Doctor Strange” takes wildly abstract concepts and presents them more realistically than the majority of big-budget action films this year.

A standout sequence in particular is a chase scene throughout New York City, as characters warp skyscrapers into different shapes, run across walls and defy the laws of reality. Never once do the effects come off as glossy or overdone, and as a result draws viewers deeper into the scene. “Doctor Strange” will undoubtedly become a clear contender for best visual effects in the 2017 Oscar race.

Marvel’s “Doctor Strange” is so beyond the typical tropes of superhero films that it’s almost shocking a film this ambitious could make it to a multiplex screen. Featuring mind-shattering visuals, abstract plot components and three dimensional characters, Doctor Strange is a must see for any cinema or comic book fan.

Doctor Strange is rated PG-13 for “sci-fi violence and action throughout, and an intense crash sequence” and is playing in theatres nationwide. Click here to get ticket links and showtimes, and view the official trailer below.  

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