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‘Doctor Strange:’ A Strange new world

November 14, 2016

Caleb Daniel

Managing Editor | csd020@latech.edu

Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

 

The world of Marvel is big. From the streets of New York to other galaxies to the realm of the Norse gods, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has continually expanded the scope of stories from which it draws.

 

Rather than running out of room, Marvel’s newest release introduces fans to a whole new world: the multiverse.

 

“Doctor Strange,” directed by Scott Derrickson, is a fast-paced, sometimes trippy tale of extra-dimensional conflict that lives up to its name. Instead of following the same old formula to box office success, the film adds some new twists and risks to the Marvel method while still maintaining the same feel that makes these movies so lovable.

 

Stephen Strange, played by the always-delightful Benedict Cumberbatch, is a brilliant, conceited neurosurgeon whose career ends abruptly after a car accident leaves his hands permanently damaged. Strange heads to the East, hoping to learn how he might be cured. Instead, he learns how to wield magic from other worlds.

 

This magic is the most dominant and eye-catching aspect of the film. Sorcerers bend reality in mind-blowing special effects that make “Inception” seem almost normal. Gravity, time, space and many other forces are thrown outside of their usual bounds to create refreshingly new types of action.

 

This action is the first way in which “Strange” departs from the routine superhero film. Opening up so many new ways for the characters to interact with their surroundings led to some truly unique and creative fight scenes. These scenes were a welcome break from the usual beat-’em-up superhero method.

 

While Strange’s magic was mind-bending and otherworldly, its origin is grounded in something that almost resembles science. The doctor’s mystic power comes not from some unexplainable hocus pocus; instead, it is power drawn from other dimensions, an idea that, while fictional, sounds almost within our broadening realm of possibility. Multiverse theorists will have a fun time dissecting this one.

 

Though wildly popular, the MCU has met with its fair share of complaints. In “Doctor Strange,” Derrickson seeks to address several of these.

 

Marvel movies have been accused of focusing on the heroes to the expense of the villains. Rather than the usual, one-dimensional villain bent on world domination, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) is given layers of motivation and development.

 

In addition, while still two hours long, the plot of “Doctor Strange” is more streamlined than the usual winding Marvel path. One plot development quickly leads to another without bogging the reader down in background and distraction.

 

Superhero movies have also been accused of leaving too much collateral damage in the wake of their stars. Without spoilers, I can say the climax of “Doctor Strange” is quite on-the-nose in its addressing of this issue.

 

Despite the many ways in which “Doctor Strange” strays from the beaten path, it is still a Marvel movie. Cumberbatch’s protagonist is in the same arrogant-but-silly vein as Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man. This is still a story of a normal-guy-turned-hero thrust into a dire situation to save the world.

 

As several references (including some exciting ones in the after-credits scenes) seem to indicate, Doctor Strange appears to be along for the ride in the grand Avengers-led story arc that Marvel has led us down for years. As a fan of the comics, I believe this is one character who badly needed to be included before the final showdown.

 

With Strange now on board, I am more excited than ever to see what the MCU has in store for us next.

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