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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Doctor Strange movie review: even Marvel is now tired of origin stories

Doctor Strange yellow light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
Busy with CGI to hide the emptiness where the emotional core should be. Even the mechanics of getting a man from mere mortal to demigod-in-a-cape are rote.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): love the MCU; love the cast
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Forget everything you think you know,” Chiwetel Ejiofor intones here. Chiwetel Ejiofor! In that amazing voice of his that commands you heed him! And he’s wearing mystical robes and has secret magic knowledge and everything, so you just want to swoonily give in to his authority.

Doctor Strange certainly looks different from all the other Marvel movies, but even its differences are familiar.

Alas, Ejiofor (Triple 9, Secret in Their Eyes) — playing a planet-protecting wizard named Mordo, which I kept hearing, distractingly, as “Mordor” — wants you to forget everything you know about superhero origin stories in order that this one will (hopefully) feel fresh to you. Oh, sure, Doctor Strange looks different from other tales of superhero beginnings — and it certainly looks different from all the other Marvel movies, which this exists alongside of — but even its differences are familiar. Worse, the film is busily jam-packed with CGI stuff at the expense of all else: there’s a yawning emptiness where the emotional core should be. All that’s left are the mechanics of getting a man from mere-mortal-hood to demigod-in-a-cape-hoodtweet, which are no longer terribly surprising.

The female romantic sidekick: literally support for male superheroes. Such a waste of Rachel McAdams...

The female romantic sidekick: literally support for male superheroes. Such a waste of Rachel McAdams…tweet

So while the specifics of Stephen Strange’s such journey may be new, this path has already been well-trod onscreen. Yet here it is again, with no psychological depth at all, courtesy of screenwriters Scott Derrickson (Deliver Us from Evil, The Day the Earth Stood Still; he also directs), Jon Spaihts (Prometheus, The Darkest Hour), and C. Robert Cargill (Sinister, Sinister 2). Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch: Zoolander 2, Black Mass) is a New York neurosurgeon — Cumberbatch’s American accent is distractingly terrible — and the usual clichéd combination of brilliant, arrogant, and singleminded, which makes him very bad at coping when a terrible car accident (which was his own fault) leaves him with such severe nerve damage in his hands that he can no longer perform surgery. His search for a cure leads him, improbably, to Kathmandu, Nepal, to a sort of spiritual martial-arts retreat called Kamar-Taj — which, distractingly, everyone pronounces in a way that sounds like they’re about to say “Comic-Con.”

Here, sorcerers the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton: Hail, Caesar!, Trainwreck) and Mordo, her lieutenant, will teach Stephen all about using magic, though everyone — including Stephen — almost instantly seems to forget that this was supposed to be about Stephen fixing his damaged hands. Stephen is just hungry for the knowledge… which is cool; a smart guy like him would be intrigued, even if he can’t quite believe in the magic at first. But it’s a much bigger problem if we cannot believe in the personal transformation Stephen supposedly goes through to wield the magictweet. “Surrender your ego,” Stephen is instructed (along with that “Forget everything you think you know”). He readily accepts that, just as it took him years of study and practice to become a neurosurgeon, so shall it require years of study and practice to master magic. Yet it seems like only mere months later that he has somehow shed his arrogance and become a world-class sorcerer, and there was no process to it: someone (like, um, lazy screenwriters) just flipped a switch. I would have expected at least one lesson in which Stephen’s cocky confidence and egotism backfire on him in a way that he is prompted to change his attitude, but no such luck.

The Marvel movies have combined deeply personal transformative journeys with real-world relevance. Not Doctor Strange.

Anyway, now Stephen is a member of an organization that, the Ancient One explains, is kind of like a mystical Avengers: Iron Man & Co protect Earth from physical threats, and Kamar-Taj protects Earth from more arcane ones. This is meant to clarify, perhaps, why the Ancient One and her gang haven’t shown up earlier in the ongoing Marvel saga, but it doesn’t quite succeed at that: the planetary threats in Thor: The Dark World seem like precisely the kind of thing they fight against, dimensions crashing up against one another in ways they’re not supposed to and so on. Kamar-Taj is all about “mirror” dimensions and “dark” dimensions and the “infinite multiverse,” and all their chases and battles ending up looking like Inception dreams in the Matrix, planes folding up against one another in gravity- and logic-defying ways. That looks pretty cool, but we have seen it before, and it ultimately doesn’t actually have any real impact on how these people fight one another. (The major bad guy here is a rogue member of Kamar-Taj; he’s not much of a villain, despite the best efforts of Mads Mikkelsen [Hannibal, The Salvation].) Sometimes even the characters onscreen simply stand around marveling at how neat-o everything looks.

My subconscious feels that someone else created this world...

My subconscious feels that someone else created this world…tweet

The Marvel movies have been so very good at combining both deeply personal transformative journeys for their heroes while also telling stories that have real-world relevance. But Doctor Strange cannot come up with either: it’s not about anythingtweet. It feels disconnected from any concerns we might recognize from our own reality, and it doesn’t seem all that interested in tracking what it would really mean for a man like Stephen to go through such a radical turnaround in his life. (“It’s not about you,” the Ancient One tells Stephen in attempt to get him to see past his self-centeredness. But this should be about him!) As a movie, it’s not enough of anything: it’s not scary enough; it’s not bonkers enough; it’s not funny enoughtweet (its few attempts at humor are, in fact, tonally jarring).

Doctor Strange is clearly itself tired of “the origin story,” and has only been treading water to get to the stuff in which Stephen can play the master sorcerer. There is real power in the finale, in which Stephen combines the intellect he brings to Kamar-Taj with the magic it commands to enact a unique solution to a seemingly unsolvable problem. The movie sets up an exciting new villain for Strange’s next outing. And the only moment when the film truly comes roaring to engaging life is the midcredits sequence that brings Stephen onto the larger Marvel scene. We should have just skipped all this and jumped right into the next story.

yellow light 2.5 stars

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Doctor Strange (2016) | directed by Scott Derrickson
US/Can release: Nov 04 2016
UK/Ire release: Oct 25 2016

MPAA: rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action throughout, and an intense crash sequence
BBFC: rated 12A (moderate fantasy violence, injury detail)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • Matt Clayton

    How was Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One? She looks like she steals every scene she’s in.

  • She’s… fine. She’s Tilda Swinton, after all. But she actually doesn’t get much opportunity to do too much of anything.

    At least the film does not pretend that she is Asian.

  • Bob

    When I first read your statement on Rotten Tomatoes, I was ready to pounce. As with anything I come across, I want to find out what makes a person tick. Even though I am a fan boy of Marvel, I had to hold back my inner contempt so I could read your review before espousing anything negative about your review. I’m glad I did. I have not seen the movie yet as it has yet to enter theaters nationwide. I can see your view points and will take note as I watch this movie when it is released. I might derive at a different conclusion, but I can understand what you’re saying and why. I was immediately turned off at the “Inception” CGI in commercials. I am hoping there would be a more unique point of view rather than something I’ve already seen before. Your remark regarding lazy writers most likely is valid. I appreciate your opinion on this movie. Still looking forward to watching Benedict Cumberbatch though.

  • bingeit 45

    well other even positive reviews have also pointed the same thing that visuals are never seen before mind blowing but story is weak and characters other than steven strange are thin, seems like gravity which didn’t have much of the story but breathtaking never before visuals were the selling point and that was enough, so i am not expecting complex oscar level storytelling but fun 2 hour at movies with trippy visuals, nothing less nothing more

  • Therealeverton

    She is excellent, as is her character.

  • Heinrick Joubert

    So because you hear ‘Mordor’ and ‘Comic Con’ you completely ignore the ‘psychological depth and parallels? So a man who has spent his entire life believing he is perfect, suddenly makes a mistake (which btw doesn’t diminish the emotional impact of the accident simply because he caused it, instead it proves he is vulnerable to error as much as anyone but we’ll get to that) that, in his eyes, flaws him beyond repair and it takes him to a place he has never known… desperation. A man who has always seen himself as the single most important thing in the world and never looked beyond his own nose suddenly brings the world into focus and realises that he is nothing but a tiny spec in a world of beings just as vulnerable to error and accident as he is. His whole world is flipped upside down. He is so afraid of the reality he is facing and that he has ignored his entire life, that all he desires is to escape and return to his upright existence and look through his keyhole just like many of us would do when faced with the real life issues of poverty, pain and random suffering (contrasted by his life of luxury and then humble endings) in the world that is so beyond our control. When he resorts to his last materialistic valuable to bring back what he lost he is given something that not only flips his world upside down but instead tears his reality apart! This is a man that was so caught up in himself and looked down on the world thinking himself so surperior that he entirely ignored the millions of lives he could’ve saved with his skills, people who were so desperate they were almost to their knees begging him for help and it was that exact negligence of the helpless that made him the helpless one who ended up on his knees begging ‘teach me’.

  • Heinrick Joubert

    ‘millions’ is obviously exaggerated. Hope that isn’t too distracting for you.

  • Therealeverton

    I think it’s a good review, I don’t agree with it, but mostly it’s just how the film affected you, which is fine.

    That said it takes a year for Strange to get to where he is as the film ends. Not a few months year. And, as we can see by all the running he has to do and how close to death he comes, he’s mostly outmatched.

    He’s STILL learning by the end of the film.

    You also appear to have missed that they state clearly, the he’s a prodigy AND has a comic book “photographic memory”, both of which allow him to advance far aster than would normally be expected. “you were born for this” Or words to that effect.

    His advancement is both explained, and not as rapid as you thought.

    I don’t know if this missed knowledge earns the film another 1/2 star or so from you. That said the film’s spiritual message worked for me and my wife, so we never felt it wasn’t about anything, although a film that’s “just” entertaining works for me if it’s entertaining enough anyway.


  • Therealeverton

    The Inception thing is lazy. Every film with a car chase isn’t copying Stagecoach or every other film wit a car chase. Inception is by no means the first film to do city “bending” and morphing (Dark City for example) And Dr. Strange was doing that in comics decades before Inception.

    The use of city altering is so far beyond inception, it’s like Avatar, or Life of Pi, to the Water Tentacle in The Abyss. It is plot driven, story concentric and simply like nothing else in live action thus far.

    Speaking of Avatar, James Cameron sated before the film was screened tha the story was kept as “simple” as possible to make it easier for general audiences to accept the new things, that which was different visually. Onc something is “normal” it is easier to go deeper. Strange is NOT lazily written. It has some truly mind bending visuals and themes and ideas not even hinted at so far in the MCU, or anywhere else in blockbuster land .You And Ii may find it unnecessary, but keeping the framework of Origin plot as simple as possible, may have seemed like the best way to introduce this “weirdo” to the masses. It seems to have worked if word of mouth and the vast majority of reviews so far are anything to go y. The film is very well liked so far.

  • funkmasterrex

    Wow… are you going to read a single comic about any of these characters too see if they’re even close to the comics before they come out? Nearly every other reviewer acknowledges that Strange is pretty much an even snobbier Stark (EXACTLY how he is in the comics).. and you find that as a fault? You’re criticism isn’t for the movie at this point, it’s for the comic it’s based upon. Read a Dr. Strange comic first (you can find it online on youtube it’s not that hard) so you understand the character… that’s who he’s supposed to be. That’s akin to saying I didn’t like Gandalf the grey because he smoked during The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring…. Wtf.

  • funkmasterrex



  • funkmasterrex

    Idk… Strange is smart enough too find straight up cures for diseases… (er was).. so technically, considering how many people would wind up with something he could fix… given a 100 year timeline, millions upon millions isn’t unreasonable.

  • funkmasterrex

    I agree.. go back even 5 years and ask people who Dr. Strange is and it gets the same reaction as Ant-Man or GoTG (prolly not that bad, but bad). Dr. Strange is just insane.

  • halavana

    Having read Dr. Strange comics as a kid, and kinda having a subreality crush on the guy way back then, I was really hoping this would get a green light. Disappointing that CGI is so overpowering. Thanks for the review.

  • Danielm80

    She’s not reviewing the comic. She’s reviewing a two-hour movie, marketed to people all over the world, many of whom have never read the comics or even heard of the character. If the movie can’t make them care about the main character, it’s a failed movie, no matter how good the original comic books might have been.

  • funkmasterrex

    well again blame the comics… they made his ass tony no.2 ….whom was infinitely more powerful.

    we all have this same argument every time. The thing is… the other literally 50 reviews agree his character is fine as are the other characters…. and that it explaining itself in such a structured way is actually the point… because of juse how crazy it gets.

    She just sounds like someone who reviewed it through blind eyes; some that have never seen an MCU movie before… and while that’s interesting it deserves a blog rather than a review.

  • funkmasterrex

    how do you even say that… I want this too be a roller coaster… like what the fuck

  • funkmasterrex

    again… you never heard “oh i don’t like the hobbit because they smoke” even though that’s like… a HUGE part of who bliblo and gandalf are… it’s a stupid reason regardless.

  • Suz

    I get the sense that you’re predisposed to dislike Cumberbatch, and certainly picked some weird roles (Zoolander 2 over Sherlock?) to remind readers who he is. Zoolander 2 (didn’t even know he was in it) and Black Mass may be among his more recent roles but people considering this film would probably know him better from films like Star Trek, and of course, a TV show that’s still airing.

    Similarly, Ejifior is most famous for 12 Years a Slave, and most known to sci-fi fans as the villain in Serenity. If I didn’t already know who these actors were, your references would not have helped me.

  • goarweam

    Wait, did you watch the movie just to compare it to other movies?
    Or do you watch movies, in general, just to compare it to other movies?

    Because if you always compare a new movie, whether or not the movie is showing you something fresh or something done-to-death, then I have no idea why you keep on watching movies.

  • Danielm80

    How would you review a movie without comparing it to other movies? If you say that a movie is fast-paced or well-acted, you have to compare it to the pacing or the acting in other movies. Otherwise, your comment doesn’t mean anything. A critic’s knowledge of other films makes it more likely that she has some idea what she’s talking about when she analyzes a scene to say how well it works.

    You’re welcome to judge every film on its own merits. Lots of people say, “That might not be the best movie of all time, but it had some pretty good jokes, and a few of the action scenes were kind of exciting.” But some of us would rather see something really spectacular than make excuses for a mediocre movie. If a critic tells us which movies she’s comparing it to—and whether she thought they were spectacular—it’s easier for us to decide whether we agree with her.

  • BayLeaves

    Thanks for this review. Personally, I thought the movie was fine, but all the criticisms in this review are valid. All the things you mentioned niggled me while I was watching it – however, I was able to brush them aside and just enjoy the movie for what it was. But it’s still nice to read a review that so succinctly summarizes the flaws of this imperfect (but still enjoyable by most people) movie.

    For example, I agree that Strange’s transformation is unconvincing – the movie-makers obviously know that they need Strange to change from a character who is selfish and arrogant to one that is willing to fight for others, but they are apparently less sure about how to how to depict that transformation. So Strange feels like he changes without any apparent reason. As though he just decided to be heroic and self-sacrificing all of a sudden (because the climax of the movie required him to be?). It would have been nice to see Strange suffer the true consequences of his arrogance and selfishness and then learn from it (the first Iron Man movie does a better job of showing Tony Stark confronted with the brutal reality of weapons, so it’s much easier to understand why he changes his tact).

    But, despite all these flaws, I thought the movie’s visuals made up for a lot of these flaws. Also, I guess I’m imagining how awesome it will be for Doctor Strange to join the Avengers and send them on trippy parallel universe adventures. I am happy to watch a good-but-not-amazing Doctor Strange movie if it means that in a few years the Avengers will have some excellent parallel universe/time-travelling/mind-bending fun.

  • Dasik

    I had exactly the same feeling as you when I saw which film she has chosen for Cumberbatch – She just dislike him. :)

  • Bluejay

    The movies mentioned after the actors’ names are ALWAYS the most recently-released ones, even if the actors are better-known for other films. That’s the system.

  • Bluejay

    Have you seen the movie?

  • Bluejay

    some that have never seen an MCU movie before

    She’s seen and reviewed all the MCU movies. She even loved some of them. Don’t be lazy, dude, read around.

    Also, even people who have never seen an MCU movie can write a review about it from their perspective. Nothing wrong with that.

    literally 50 reviews agree his character is fine

    You’re talking about other people’s opinions, which have nothing to do with THIS reviewer’s opinion. What about you? Have you seen the movie?

  • Danielm80

    Clearly she can’t stand him:


    As Bluejay indicated, she always lists an actor’s most recent credit that appears on this website, even if it’s a terrible movie or not very characteristic of the person’s career.

  • Dasik

    OK, I admit, I didn’t know about this really strange system running on this site. :)

  • I think you’re reading stuff into my review that isn’t there. And I think you may be reading things into the movie that aren’t there.

  • I was ready to pounce

    Why? I’m glad you held back your inner contempt, but perhaps you can explain why so many of your peers hold someone in contempt merely for espousing an opinion they disagree with. I’d really love an explanation.

  • You also appear to have missed that they state clearly, the he’s a prodigy AND has a comic book “photographic memory”

    I did not miss this. Did you miss the bit where, when Strange is asked how long it took *him* — even with his genius IQ and photographic memory — to become a neurosurgeon, and *he* said it took *him* “years of study and practice”?

    the film’s spiritual message

    What spiritual message did you see? I didn’t see one.

  • I’m not sure where you think I found “fault” with Strange’s personality, and that I don’t “like” him. I do complain that a brilliant but arrogant surgeon is pretty clichéd (whether that originated with the comic or not is beside the point) and that Strange’s characterization doesn’t really go beyond that.

    Read a Dr. Strange comic first

    No thanks. If you need to have read the comic or the book, or need to have seen the TV show, or need to have played the game before seeing the movie, the movie has failed.

    I wonder: Would you discard my hugely positive reviews of the other MCU movies because I’ve never read any Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, or Avengers comics?

  • And this has absolutely nothing to do with my problems with this movie.

  • I love Cumberbatch. Just not so much in this movie.

    My references are not meant to remind you who actors are, but to link to their most recent movies that they’ve had roles in. It’s a standard practice — I’m not doing anything unusual here.

  • It’s not a “strange system”: it’s standard practice.

  • ketac6

    That’s disappointing, I was hoping a cast including the amazing Tilda Swinton would make this an intelligent superhero movie worth watching.

    Why would he go to Kathmandu these days? Surely he’d go to an Ayahuasca ceremony in Peru? That’s the film that I would have made.

  • I don’t dislike him at all. Why not read some of my other reviews of films he’s been in? Or see what else I’ve posted about him? Like, literally just click on his name in the tags to see whether I like him or not.

  • How do you NOT compare movies to other movies you have seen? Or have you refrained from watching any movies ever just so you’d be completely fresh when you saw this one? And if that’s the case, why would anyone trust your opinion on this movie, when it’s literally the only movie you’ve ever seen?

    I’m curious to know how you think being a movie fan works…

  • ketac6

    I really hate the idea of film-makers keeping stories simple. Make them complicated and non-linear and full of ideas. Stretch the minds of the sudience and make them want to see it again.

    All the best comics have been trying to push the stories that they tell so why are their adaptations these boring flashy things? It’s Dr Strange – make it strange.

  • MontyBoy

    Mary Anne, your comments are very unkind.
    I get that we all have different opinions and that no two persons’ experience is quite the same … you’ve made your contempt for GGI and Sorcerers (not wizards) quite clear … with that being the case “Why bother seeing the movie”?
    I rank this alongside Iron Man and GOTG as one of Marvel’s best origin films.
    It’s fun, far out and entertaining – the acting is top notch!
    As for how he becomes the sorcerer supreme, there is a spiritual message (for those who are looking for it) that the powers choose the individual, not the other way round :)

  • Therealeverton

    But the you ignore the salient part of my comment. Two things go together here.

    The ancient one suggests that, as with medicine it would take years of study and practice. Well even ignoring that he is STILL studying at the end of the film, that same conversation tells us that even so Strange was able to shave years off his training as a doctor because of his memory. So it is established that he has the potential to learn at a substantially increased rate.

    Then, as I said earlier, even in the quote you have taken from my comment, he’s Mozart, Einstein, DaVinci. He’s a “prodigy”. Mordo says this to him explicitly. That being able to read all of the books and remember everything in them isn’t enough. He was “born to this” (I think those are the words, but it is thee intent of whatever the exact words Mordo used). The film makes it clear at LEAST twice that Strange is exceptional in “normality” AND that he is beyond a natural talent.

    To use a film analogy. It’s like Anakin or Luke Skywalker (or we assume Yoda) as compared o almost every other Jedi. Same training, same teachers, but they learn faster and become more powerful than even those who train twice as hard, for three times as long. Strange says it in reference to the speed of his study in medicine and Mordo states it. Even The Ancient one sees it.

    Hey I assume that you, like most of us, get to see the film once then write your review. We are all capable of missing things, or not making connections. It may not be enough for you, but the film made an effort (well a few efforts) to show uss why 1 year for Dr. Strange was like years for everyone else.

    I also have to repeat that Strange is over matched by more experienced Sorcerers at almost every turn. He is in no way fully trained by the climatic battle, merely aided by an extremely powerful artefact (The cloak saves his life more than ponce) the ancient one (saves his life once and Mordo. NOT to mention the godlike power of the Infinity Stone TIME.

    “What spiritual message did you see? I didn’t see one.”

    Well we each respond differently to things don’t we? That’s why variety in film is so good. There#s plenty out there who saw what I did, it may be more use to read their opinions, but as for me. I’m part Chinese, I have studied several martial arts and the film is full of references to balance of self, sacrifice of self and ego. ing/ Yang. All faults in the film stem from people who do not balance their Yin & Yang. Strange and Mordo are hoped for, by The Ancient one, to balance each other with thir opposing rigidity and fluidity of thought and ideology. Kaecilius is a hero trying to save the world from death, but by sticking to a point of view, originally shared by Strange, he fails to see the trap or the flaw in his “needs of the many” philosophy. Strange spends almost the entire film a the centre of the universe and thinking the small parts don’t matter (saving only those he can “definitely” save AND get a new method for saving more people. Failing to see how doing the reverse is just as important. Mordo takes a journey in which he refuses to alter his view. He pushes down his problems and refuses to accept that doesn’t mean they have gone. We see where that leads as surprise and disappointment lead him to the end credits. The ancient one is full of contradiction, but needs to be, she’s balanced, Christine is balanced, and the Dark Dimension is the definition of a lack of balance. Death is part of life.

    Look there’s more to it and others are far more eloquent about it than I. The ease and inherent danger of belief turning to zealotry. It is a very relevant theme and shown by how many of the protagonists AND antagonists are zealots and incapable of seeing themselves as such

    I hope I haven’t come across as adversarial here. I’m not troll and not here to “flame” or try t sound superior debate yes, playground argument, no. So sorry if that didn’t come across in the correct manner.

    Thanks again.

  • Unkind? What does that mean? I should be “kind” to a movie?

    you’ve made your contempt for GGI and Sorcerers (not wizards) quite clear

    Huh? Maybe you should read some of my reviews of other movies containing CGI and/or sorcerers.

    “Why bother seeing the movie”?

    How about because I’ve loved the other MCU movies? (Which also utilize TONS of CGI.)

  • that same conversation tells us that even so Strange was able to shave years off his training as a doctor because of his memory.

    No, it doesn’t. If it was supposed to do that, then Strange would have said something like, “Well, for other people it takes years of study and practice, but I did it a lot faster.”

    He’s a “prodigy”. Mordo says this to him explicitly.

    “Show, don’t tell” is a storytelling rule for a reason. Characters can *say* all sorts of things, but unless we see it in action, it doesn’t ring true.

    All faults in the film stem from people who do not balance their Yin & Yang

    There is literally nothing in the movie to support that. It’s such a general supposition, and it could apply to the characters of almost any movies. You might as well say that all the faults in the film stem from people who don’t get enough sleep, or from people who could use some therapy, or should eat a more balanced diet.

    Kaecilius is a hero trying to save the world from death,

    Kaecilius is so undeveloped as a character that we have almost no idea who he is, what he believes, or what he stands for.

    I suspect you are bringing a *lot* of stuff with you into the movie and seeing things that are not there. There’s nothing wrong with that: we all do that. But that means the movie is not going to work for people who don’t have your background. A movie should work on its own terms. But there are almost no such terms at all here.

  • Danielm80

    Unkind? What does that mean? I should be “kind” to a movie?

    Maybe he wants you to smile more.

  • Therealeverton

    I think you’re misunderstanding here. You can keep the story structure simple and fill the film with ideas. This does that. IT makes the thing those ideas are hung on easy to grasp, so the average moviegoer doesn’t get overwhelmed. The last thing you need is to spend a fortune on a film the majority give up on because it’s all too much. That’s a freedom smaller film have.

  • Therealeverton

    that same conversation tells us that even so Strange was able to shave years off his training as a doctor because of his memory.
    No, it doesn’t. If it was supposed to do that, then Strange would have said something like, “Well, for other people it takes years of study and practice, but I did it a lot faster.”l

    Doing something that takes 10 years in 5 years is much quicker, but it still takes years. (The numbers are purely illustrative. ) HE clearly states that he does his PHD AND (something sounds like MDA?) at the same time, in quick time BECAUSE of his memory. HE states that he is able to achieve his qualification faster. Clearly you missed it. Just because they didn’t drag the sentence out to “Well I did a 4 year PHd and a 3 year (MDA?) that would take 7 years in just the 4 years because of my photographic memory, doesn’t mean that isn’t what the sentence meant. That is what it meant.

    “He’s a “prodigy”. Mordo says this to him explicitly.
    “Show, don’t tell” is a storytelling rule for a reason. Characters can *say* all sorts of things, but unless we see it in action, it doesn’t ring true.”

    Show AND Tell. They tell us MANY times and they show us with time passing and him advancing quicker than anyone else. Quicker than anyone believes should be possible. We see him running around with numerous books. We see that he is reading ALL the books, including books too advanced for someone of the level he is meant to be. we see, once he has his acceptance moment on Everest, “casting” spells and using magic at a rapid rate and , again, in conjunction with the passage of time, at a faster rate than others. The very reason it is mentioned that he is a prodigy in magic as well as science (remember we have BOTH seen AND been told of his surgical excellence) is because we SEE him perform feats that should be beyond him. You’re arguing against yourself. You complain that he learns too fat, but seeing him learn so quickly IS us being shown that he is a prodigy. We see it lots of ways, the Eye of Agamoto, the use of portals for just his arms in the library. His reading AND understanding. He remains unrefined and behind many, many of the other sorcerers. But the idea that his progress is either unexplained, or not shown in the proper manner is erroneous in the extreme. It still seems clear from what you write that you simply didn’t see the relevant moments and didn’t connect those dots.

    “All faults in the film stem from people who do not balance their Yin & Yang
    There is literally nothing in the movie to support that.”

    Every single thing I mentioned supports that. Much of what the ancient one says supports that. She literally tells Strange that he and Mordo are opposing in their views and must work together to form the correct balance. KAecilius is mirrored, all but word for wod, with the unenlightened Strange (It calls back to the “If they’re going to die, then they’d better do it! line from A Christmas Carol!) The massive plot point, the one that is shown to have pushed Kaecilius over the edge AND nudges Mordo away from he sorcerers is The Ancient One’s use of certain energies, a rule break and the opposite of her. They even spell it out for us, as spelling it out to Strange, when we see Shakra, then Acupuncture, then an MRI all ideas with one point of view, and it’s a need to look at them all that is discussed.

    But I already wrote extensively on this an it seems silly to keep on doing the same thing here. I’m by no means the only one who sees it this way, or similar, and I want to this film with a diverse group of people from 11 to 45, male and female and they saw similar things to me without my familiarity with Yin * Yang. (For example try reading Mark Hughes in Forbes, or Grace Randolph.

    “Kaecilius is a hero trying to save the world from death,
    Kaecilius is so undeveloped as a character that we have almost no idea who he is, what he believes, or what he stands for.”

    So you didn’t get from anything h said that he didn’t trust the Ancient one, believed the Dark Dimension held the key to eternal life and that killing a few people in order to save the world, by granting billions the eternal life he thought The Ancient One(s) was (were) hoarding for herself then? Because that was pretty explicit and all you need to know to see why he thinks he’s the hero and Strange looked like he could have been tempted by it? Ditto Mordo’s disagreement with how things work out. Mordo is they one we see from the part where he follows the Ancient One to where he may not. Kaecillius has already reached disillusionment and believes his way is the right way.

    I’m certain you know this and using your dislike of how the character was drawn to cause an argument, rather than just saying “Yes he is”, but he’s so weak I didn’t care, seems disingenuous in the extreme.

    Sorry if I got that wrong, but it reads that way.

    So thanks for the replies and have a great weekend.

  • Dasik

    I admit I was wrong about that and I have already read your female gazing article, thank Danielm80. :) I repeat, it really was just a feeling I got because of your system. And yes, it’s a strange system, I haven’t seen a review webpage with system like this ever before – it should show films the actor is really known for, not just his most recent movies. On the other hand, your review also wasn’t much friendly towards this movie and even to Benedict himself (his accent, for example :)), so the feeling grew…
    But I respect your opinion on the movie, even if I liked it very much. For me, Cumberbatch has been the only cast choice for Dr. Strange for many years, when he wasn’t cast yet at all. And I liked Stephen’s origin story, even if it has standard storyline – origin story cannot have any other…
    At last, thanks for replying, it’s also really rare thing today. ;)

  • Dasik

    You are right about Ying-Yang thing – I haven’t seen that either in the movie, maybe once when they are angry with Stephen that he used the Eye of Agamotto. But the other things that Therealeverton has written are there.

  • Dasik

    If I judge a movie, which is an adaptation of something else (book, comics, game, even another movie), it is essential for me to know if that adaptation is close to that book (etc.) Because this is what is the most important…
    If there was a Spider-Man movie which would create different origin for him than Stan Lee wrote in 1962, that movie would be junk, even if it had good actors and effects.
    And just because of this reason the Doctor Strange is great, it is faithful to original.
    But I respect your opinion and am glad you liked the other superhero movies, it means that you’re not a bad person. :)

  • Bluejay

    Before you watched The Godfather, did you make sure to read the book first? Did you think Pacino played Michael Corleone well, compared to how Mario Puzo wrote the character?

    What about A Clockwork Orange? Do you think Kubrick did a good job adapting Anthony Burgess’s novel, or were there some things you thought the novel did better?

    What about Forrest Gump, Fight Club, The Princess Bride, No Country for Old Men, Psycho, The Silence of the Lambs, Jaws, and Blade Runner? Did you read all the original books/stories before you saw the movies? And if the movies were very different from their source books, did you think those movies were junk?

  • Liking an actor and being a fan doesn’t mean you have to accept everything s/he does uncritically.

  • Nathan

    Mad traffic.

  • Therealeverton

    goes where he is sent, where the Ancient One resides. It makes sense in the film. The powers aren’t “Eastern”, but the training takes place there. Going to Peru and “Last Airbendering” this thing would have been a disaster.

  • Therealeverton

    Even if you don’t KNOW you’re doing it, you always compare experiences. As a professional it’s her job to make those comparisons explicit.

  • Therealeverton

    It isn’t. This reviewer felt that, bur she is by a distance in thee minority. See for yourself. Also as a Strange fan, you KNOW that effects are a massive part of getting his universe right. They nailed it. In my opinion.

  • What?

  • Therealeverton


    I think if you see the film again, now that you may be “looking” for it, you’ll notice the opposing natures of the characters and inside the characters. How The Ancient One balances the Dark Dimension and light side of her powers. Harshness, how she trains / teaches Strange, and kindness. How Mordo is inflexible (as she points out) and Strange has that capacity to rule break. ( They are a little Kirk And Spock, that’s how she sees them and wants them to work. Kaecillius is convinced life shouldn’t be fleeting and lacks a capacity to accept that there’s a bigger picture, he thinks he’s found the biger picture. He is all “needs of the many and refuses to see (as does Strange until the end) The needs of the few,

    I happen to describe this in terms of Yin Yang because I’m familiar with that, but the film explicitly mentions balance use characters shown as unbalanced (Zealots, of Kaecilius & Ancient one, Benjamin Bratt’s character, Pangborn, and those who are..Ancient One & Dr. Palmer.

    Anyway thanks again.

  • Donald Clarke

    “it is essential for me to know if that adaptation is close to that book (etc.) Because this is what is the most important…”

    No, it isn’t.

    It is not (or should not) be of any great significance. If a film is of any value it should stand on its own merits and require no familiarity with the source text. Hitchcock knew this. He plucked the few things worth saving from a novel and threw the rest in the bin. Who now gives a toss how close Vertigo was to its source?

  • 6EQUJ5

    This would have been a far more interesting story if after the car crash there was no Deus Ex Machina in the form of a hidden society of sorcerers to cure his hands, but then we wouldn’t have a comic book movie I guess. I too rolled my eyes more than a couple times at ‘I saw this one somewhere else’ moments.

    I wasn’t expecting any profound insights from this, but perhaps what disturbs me the most is the unanimous chorus of reviewers praising it. Can I trust internet scores any longer? at least that’s one important question I got an answer.

  • Captain Megaton

    “We should have just skipped all this and jumped right into the next story.”

    I suppose it’s because origin stories do better at the box office that studios are unwilling to follow your advice.

    Though careful what you wish for: Marvel’s follow-on films have been generally worse than the origin story first outing (winter soldier being the noted exception I guess).

  • Captain Megaton

    Contempt to mask the resentment felt on seeing that someone wants to spoil/denigrate/ridicule something they feel an deep and personal attachment for I suppose, coupled to an unshakable belief that the person making the criticism has simply not taken the time or made the effort to understand and appreciate it.

  • I suppose it’s because origin stories do better at the box office that studios are unwilling to follow your advice.

    My concerns are not about money, however.

    Marvel’s follow-on films have been generally worse than the origin story first outing

    I disagree.

  • Interesting speculation, and perhaps accurate. But I want to hear someone who actually experiences this explain it.

  • JooonsJoonz

    I had a laught when i read emotional core

  • Why?

  • halavana

    been reading flickfilosopher for a long time. found we have similar views on marvel movies. that’s how I can say that. will refrain from giving my opinion until I’ve seen Dr. Strange myself. lots of movies have phenomenal CGI but if the story is lacking they’re not likely to get more than 1 viewing.

  • halavana

    haven’t seen the movie yet so I’ll keep my opinion to myself until I actually have one. thanks for the input.

  • Matt Clayton

    Saw the 7 p.m. Thursday show. To start off with, Marvel overplayed the funny here. 50% of the quips and one-liners in Strange grind the movie to a halt, which was a problem with Ultron as well. The fans in my showing ate it up, howling with laughter.

    I actually agree with large portions of your review here — the origin hero story isn’t that interesting (and it’s overstuffed!), it rips off from Edge of Tomorrow for its climax and is yet another movie that tragically wastes Rachel McAdams’s talent. Why hasn’t she fired her agent?

    I have to give credit to Benedict Cumberbatch, he almost completely salvages the movie. He sells the arrogance and humor of Strange well. And the visuals themselves make it worth a trip to the theater, albeit a matinee price.

  • Deviancy Behavir

    What a piece of drivel masquerading as a review. The more people quote inception, the matrix and of course, not being a true comic book fan, this reviewer wouldn’t know that a lot of the space folding and bending reality happened in the comic book over 40 years ago. I don’t care if what I said gets taken down, just had to say it, because the minority of reviewers trashing the movie just make me laugh at some of their assertions. And for people who keep talking about how he learns magic so easily, he explained that he has perfect recall of anything he reads, which would explain why he excels at learning magic and becoming a surgeon and why he knew encyclopedia style facts that others wouldn’t. His true journey was learning that it wasn’t just about him, to learn compassion and to put others needs before his needs, that was the true moral of the movie. If the reviewer couldn’t get that out of the story, I’d be hard pressed to read any other of her reviews for any nuggets of wisdom.

  • a lot of the space folding and bending reality happened in the comic book over 40 years ago

    So what? The way it is applied here is wholly derivative of other films. That did not have to be the case.

    he explained that he has perfect recall of anything he reads

    And yet it *still* took him *years* to learn to become a neurosurgeon. And The Ancient One implies that magic is at least as complex.

    His true journey was learning that it wasn’t just about him, to learn compassion and to put others needs before his needs

    And how does he learn this? Where is this journey? It’s not in the movie. “And then, suddenly, he was a better man” is not a story. But that’s all we get here.

  • Deviancy Behavir

    I knew you were going to reply, you’re the kind of “reviewer” and I use that term so loosely I might get sued for false advertising that needs to fight to be right. Every point I made is your attempt to right fight your way into a win, I’ve met people like you, so right that when given a different point of view, context and understanding that they saw it completely in a different light, you say, That’s not possible. Get off your high horse, because it is possible that everything I said is true and you just don’t get it and this wasn’t the movie for you. I know since you’re so compulsive you can’t help, but respond, because this just will prove that you can’t let this die, you can’t let this difference of opinion co unchecked in your fiefdom. My opinion stands of you and your review, it was drivel.

  • You’re hilarious.

  • Deviancy Behavir

    And you’re predictable!

  • Danielm80

    I’ve been noticing a huge outbreak of “truthiness” recently, both on this site and in daily life. People genuinely believe, deep in their hearts, that if you don’t like a movie as much as they do, you must have your facts wrong, or be a bigot.

    The most dramatic example, of course, is the presidential campaign, where people make up nonsensical facts and they’re widely accepted.

    Is it just my imagination–or my hatred of Donald Trump–or is the phenomenon getting worse? I really feel as though people are losing the ability to check facts that don’t agree with their personal view of the world.

  • RogerBW

    I think it is getting worse; whatever your opinion, it’s now easy to find a lot of people who will agree with you about it.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Counter-point: tribalism isn’t new, but it comes in waves, and now the tribes can see what each other are saying and send each other messages.

  • rosie1843

    The Marvel Cinematic Universe hasn’t really been up to par this year . . . at least for me. Neither “Captain America: Civil War” and “Doctor Strange” are terrible movies. Not by a long shot. But “Civil War” disappointed me and “Doctor Strange’ struck me as an average comic book hero film. By the way, I don’t think Strange has really lost his arrogance.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Yeh, so this did about as much for me as “Ant Man” and “Guardians of the Galaxy”. I.e. not much.

    It’s really become a problem how the MCU can’t come up with a decent villain. The best villains they’ve managed have been Robert Redford (???) and Hugo Weaving’s Werner Herzog accent.

  • My thoughts on the movie:
    This was entertaining, but didn’t quite hit all the right notes.
    For starters, having Benedict talk with an American accent was just an odd decision. I think his true accent would actually work better for the character. I wonder why they did it. American comic? So what? America has people from all over the world living here. Took me a while to get used to him speaking “midwestern”.
    The effects were pretty damn amazing, but often felt wasted. It’s like the spellcasters(or whatever you want to call them) just wanted to show off what they could do. The use during fights was cool for us to see, but kind of useless in the battles themselves. Still some clever stuff, though.
    The movie needed more exposition to explain background and characters.
    The “bad guy” played by the awesome Mads Mikkelsen(sp?) was pretty generic. The ultimate baddie even more so.
    The ending was pretty darn anti-climactic. The movie didn’t feel done. It was odd. I suppose, like many first movies in series, that it was mostly just a setup for the sequel.
    I know that’s a bunch of negatives, but it’s still a pretty fun movie to watch. I look forward to seeing how they expand the story in the sequel.

  • I had two contrary preconceptions going into the movie: I’ll forgive a lot for Benedict Cumberbatch swaggering in a cape, but God, I am so done with “white dude finds special destiny.” With those preconceptions battling, I think I ended up with a B- experience, possible B because my 9-year-old was enjoying herself. I liked it on a popcorn escapism level, but I didn’t particularly worry about missing five minutes to go to the bathroom.

  • There is a simple but profound difference between experiencing a movie as a movie and experiencing it as an adaptation. Kubrik’s Shining is loved by many, many people, but as an adaptation of the book, it utterly stinks. And both reactions are fine. I’m not going to tell someone not to like it because it destroys characters I love. I’m likewise not going to tell someone to like a movie because it’s faithful to a book I love.

  • halavana

    Now that I’ve actually seen Dr. Strange, must say that, for the most part, I agree with you, MaryAnn. When you mentioned the CGI, it served as a heads up to those of us who have at one time or another dealt with head injuries. It was a bit much.

    On the other hand, I found the attempts at humor more of a relief than jarring. But Strange winning by not losing was definitely among the best parts.

  • Dan Robertsson

    I agree that the transformation to a capable sorcerer was way too quick, feels like the film was missing at least one or two chapters here. In all honesty I’m sure a section was cut in the end to keep the films pace up, which is quite sad as its a major blow to the believability of Stephen’s transformation.

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