Thursday, November 3, 2016

Doctor Strange

Hey guys, first film review I’ve written since June, 5 months ago. I believe this is the longest gap I’ve had prior to starting my blog more than six years ago; simple enough to explain why of course. The fervor of youtube production and watching SFV replays while maintaining the channel and communicating with various parties including multiple Capcom Cup participants drove my interest more than writing reviews. The movies that came out this year were also a fair amount less interesting than the ones last year, but I did see Hell or High Water (easily the best film of the year) recently and didn’t write a review for that so this isn’t a functional excuse either.

All of that said Doctor Strange is a great film, it isn’t quite Deadpool levels of excellent but within the constraints of the Marvel template it’s hard to imagine them doing much better than this. There are no less than five exceptional actors in the film and soon enough every actor who walks the earth will have a major role in Avengers 40 billion. Cumberbatch kicks ass, because he’s great in everything ever; even the much maligned Into Darkness. Tilda Swinton is alright is the immensely predictable master role (took me ~2 minutes from the start of the film to see the resolution of her plot arc), though given how much talent she shows in films such as Snowpiercer I guess this one amounts to a paycheck. 

Doc Strange himself is much like every protagonist ever in a slightly thoughtful film, that is to say a representation of myself, an eccentric, narcissistic, extremely smart person (always male, often white, usually tall and handsome etc.). Strange has an odd affiliation for being good that I find a special amount of affinity for and which doesn’t generally occur in most “genius” movies because they all take place in something resembling reality. But in this case given the expanded rule set we instead find a rather interesting philosophical point.

At multiple points in the film there is a reference to man’s own insignificance, a perception of oneself as an irrelevant speck in hundreds of millions, even billions of similar specks out there. Anyone with a mathematical mind is of course aware of this, the simple equation of 1 divided by 8 billion results in a number approaching zero for all intents and purposes; but it is interesting that this seems to be the focal motivation of the antagonist as well as what drives Doctor Strange to want to be significant even when faced with the impossibility of such a feat. Luckily with magical spells on your side this becomes less of an issue, but it would be cool to see this demonstrated in a more realistic universe where people strive for absolute power over everything to try to force the issue (though perhaps ultimately still becoming somewhat meaningless, even if the protagonist is someone absurdly impressive like Napoleon, Alexander, or Toyotomi Hideyoshi). It is very rare for a super hero movie to even imagine touching on such a complicated, difficult subject so I applaud the effort here, it shows someone intelligent was involved in the production of the film.

Doctor Strange is certainly one of the funniest Superhero films, even if the humor isn’t continuously entertaining like Deadpool or Iron Man 3, it just has very smart pseudo breaking the fourth wall type of dialogue throughout. Immediate mockery of obviously ridiculous situations makes the transition into them much easier, and once it becomes clear the “cool” moment isn’t just about bending buildings around randomly it all works much better just because the writing allows for you to accept such things. Amusingly Wong, the comic relief character de jour, actually kind of fails at being humorous; instead he’s just Captain Exposition (I must reference the excellent Spoonyreview of Avatar the Last Airbender here) and when no one is even slightly interested in MCU bullshit he has the worst lines in that regard. Oh, ahem, let me namedrop the avengers for no reason in this scene; oh you’ve heard of Infinity Stones? Let’s ham-fistedly reference those too. Yes the film is ultimately about stupid plot macguffins at its core, but you don’t need to make that completely obvious to me movie, let’s just pretend the shitty corporate mess part doesn’t exist and then we can enjoy an otherwise fantastic film.

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