BY ROGER THOMAS
I have pointed out several times in my columns that I am not a fan of comic books, or “graphic novels” if you prefer that term. I have nothing against them, I just have not read them consistently in my younger days or now.
However, I have enjoyed many of the recent film adaptions that are inspired by comic book characters. For the record, most recently I think Marvel is doing a better job presenting their characters on screen than DC Comics does. This trend may continue or not. Either way, I am sure that there will be many more superhero films yet to come. These projects make money in the States and around the world; my guess is that will continue for a while.
Marvel’s “Doctor Strange” is the latest film in the quest for money. Going into the theatre, I knew nothing about “Strange.” I did not know what made him special nor did I know how he got his powers. I have to admit, the discoveries of the film were quite engaging. Dr. Strange begins the film as a gifted surgeon, but after a serious accident, he seeks healing from a mystic culture halfway around the world.
There are many strengths in the film. First and foremost, the film looks great. I cannot imagine that this film will not be nominated for a “Visual Effects Oscar.” The visuals of the film often reminded me of the scenes from the film “Inception”, except “Strange” goes beyond those ideas and creates new ones.
The story itself is also inspired. I am sure much of this comes from the books, but the characters and philosophies of the culture are fascinating, even when they are a little bit confusing. I was not always sure that I understood what was happening or why it was happening, but I still had a lot of fun even in the midst of my confusion. This film certainly would be worthy of a second viewing for clarity, and for the fun of it.
As I exited the theatre, a colleague of mine pointed out the strength of the humor. His words were, “Marvel has really captured the gift of humor. DC cannot even come close.” I think that is correct. For DC to be more successful, they need to watch “Strange:” this film is not always humorous, but when it is, the humor works absolutely.
The casting is another strength. Benedict Cumberbatch starred in my favorite film of 2014, “The Imitation Game.” He deserved an Oscar for it, but he lost to a deserving candidate, Eddie Redmayne for “The Theory of Everything.” Chiwetel Ejiofor has an Oscar nomination for “12 Years a Slave” which also stars Cumberbatch. Tilda Swinton won an Oscar for Supporting Actress in the film “Michael Clayton.” Rachel McAdams got an Oscar nomination in 2015 for “Spotlight.” These four, and a great many others, fill the talented cast of “Strange.”
Great visuals, compelling story and a talented cast, what more does one need? I would offer a great climax. The only minor complaint I have is the final challenge. I am not sure how I could explain without giving too much away. So let me just say, I liked almost everything in the film. I had a great time watching it. But then suddenly, I was slightly disappointed. I felt like I had seen this all before. This new version looked better than that past, but still it was all too familiar.
This probably would not have been as big a deal, except that the filmmakers had done everything right up until then. Oh well, 90% of it was great!
By the way, there are two scenes after the credits begin to roll, and both of them are interesting. So stick around, you will be glad that you did.