Summary: This review will help both those wondering if they should see the Dr. Strange and those who have seen it, although in different ways. This gives a different perspective than you’ll get from the critics. No spoilers!
“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
— From Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949).
Review of Marvel’s “Dr. Strange”.
Some interesting cgi.
Adequate plot and dialog.
**** out of 5 stars.
Marvel’s latest film tells a story familiar to us all as another re-telling of the hero’s journey, as described by Joseph Campbell in his famous book. It’s also familiar to those of us who read the Dr. Strange comic books, which have run on and off since 1963. The film shows the power and weaknesses both of this iconic character and Marvel’s superhero films. The reviews show that many critics have difficulty understanding either.
The trailer introduces one of the great taglines for the series, almost as good positioning as that of the first X-men film (protecting those who fear and hate them): “The Avengers protect the world from physical dangers. We safeguard it against more mystical threats.”
Let’s start the review with the most important aspect of modern Hollywood film-making, on which they lavish their time and talent: the CGI. Some of it is excellent. Much is a bore, repeating themes we have all seen countless times going back to 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (Strange’s first magical trip copies 2001’s hyperspace journey). The key demonstrations of magic in the film are all in the trailers: sparkly space portals (clever), astral projection (well done), and space bending. The last is drawn more skillfully in Dr. Strange than in Inception, but used less skillfully. They use too much of it for too long, so it becomes boring.
The fight scenes display little imagination, mostly hand to hand combat with magic light sabers. Oddly they employ none of the imaginative tools used by Dr. Strange in the comics’ battles (e.g., Crimson Bands of Cyttorak, Images of Ikonn, Shields of the Seraphim, Winds of Watoomb, Flames of the Faltine, Hand of Hoggoth). The last third of the film is an extended fight scene, running so long I felt lost in time (but not as bad as The Lord of the Rings, where Peter Jackson gutted the plot to fit in orgies of gratuitous violence).
At the end I agree with the harsh verdict of James Verniere at the Boston Herald: the good spots were too few, so it was a “derivative, monotonous and repetitious display of CGI Cheez Whiz.”
The film seldom shows the small uses of magic to demonstrate its power as often done in the comics (except for a humorous example in the first of the two codas in the credits). The writers seem to have exhausted their imagination on the large CGI set pieces, treating the rest as a paint-by-the-numbers exercise.