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The UnPopular Opinion: Doctor Strange

02.23.2017

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

In my tenure here at JoBlo.com (5 years next week!), I have been called many names. Thanks to this column in particular, many of those names have not been very kind. But one that I do not understand is Marvel Apologist. Sure, this site covers a lot of comic book films but that is the cinematic world we live in right now. Superheroes and shared universes are all the rage in Hollywood and until that goes away we will be covering them. But, even at their worst, Marvel films are better than a lot of mainstream films out there. For every Marvel Studios effort that I love, there are others I truly don't like at all. I have taken both THOR movies and both AVENGERS films to task for their shortcomings and now I feel obligated to do the same for DOCTOR STRANGE. There was a lot of cool stuff on display in Scott Derrickson's mystical origin story but the movie also exposed the glaring holes in Marvel's impenetrable reputation.

Every time a new Marvel movie is released, fanboys are split between those who adoringly throw bouquets at the film and herald it as another masterpiece while others decry the film as another cookie cutter product meant to pad Disney's bottom line. The true answer lies somewhere in the middle. But, DOCTOR STRANGE is far from being a revelation unto Marvel Studios. Yes, the film had the gargantuan task of introducing the mystical side of the MCU but in the end it comes off as being nothing more than Marvel's GREEN LANTERN. The Sorceror Supreme, in essence, is a universal guardian chosen to ward off alien entities from harming Earth. Stephen Strange takes on the mantle of Sorceror Supreme begrudgingly thanks to his seemingly natural talents for magic. Somehow, we got all of this from an incredibly bland film made only unique by the trippy visuals that were marketing as groundbreaking despite having been done better years prior in Christopher Nolan's INCEPTION.

The UnPopular Opinion, Doctor Strange, Marvel Studios, Superhero, Comic Book, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Fantasy

The problem all stems from the lead role. Benedict Cumberbatch is an incredibly talented actor who brings a gravitas to his roles as Sherlock Holmes and Khan in STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS that is sorely lacking here. Cumberbatch portrays Strange like Tony Stark, MD. He is snarky, sarcastic, and thinks way too highly of himself. But, as Tony Stark developed a change of heart over the course of the first IRON MAN film, Strange's journey feels oddly forced. Even Paul Rudd's journey as Scott Lang in ANT-MAN felt more natural than Strange's transformation from cocky surgeon to mystical warrior. What has made every other Marvel superhero so watchable is the fact that they are flawed humans who embrace their duality as person and superhero. Here, Strange just feels like a guy who has no choice but to become a hero. The only time that Cumberbatch seems perfect in the role comes during the credit sequence featuring Doctor Strange and Thor (Chris Hemsworth).

The issue with why the credit sequence works and the rest of the film does not comes down to one thing: director. Derrickson is no stranger to big budget filmmaking but his previous foray into blockbuster territory, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, was equally as boring and generic as DOCTOR STRANGE. The credit sequence came courtesy of THOR: RAGNAROK helmer Taika Waititi who injected some levity into the proceedings. Every time Cumberbatch tried to deliver a joke or one-liner in this film it came off as very forced and not humorous. Derrickson absolutely did a great job with the physics-defying visual aspect of DOCTOR STRANGE but that was about it. The rest of the cast didn't fare much better with Mads Mikkelsen and Chiwetel Ejiofor coming off as bored to death to be in this movie. Rachel McAdams, a talented actress, was given virtually nothing to warrant her casting in the film. The lone standout was Tilda Swinton but, let's be honest, she could make reading the ingredients in herpes medication sound amazing.

The UnPopular Opinion, Doctor Strange, Marvel Studios, Superhero, Comic Book, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Fantasy

What I wanted from Scott Derrickson was for this movie to be much darker and riskier than it was. Derrickson is best known for working in horror with films like DELIVER US FROM EVIL and SINISTER. SINISTER itself was a relatively formulaic movie that played to the audience by delivering genuine scares using a villain that looked different than what you typically see. That film played within the confines of genre formula but managed to set itself apart. DOCTOR STRANGE plays so safely within the confines of superhero formulas that it never tries to be as groundbreaking as the visual effects. As I mentioned earlier, INCEPTION laid the groundwork for the visuals of DOCTOR STRANGE and this film didn't even manage to fully erase that film's legacy. When you see DOCTOR STRANGE, you immediately think of INCEPTION and if another movie uses similar tactics, you will still remember Nolan's film rather than this one. The entirety of DOCTOR STRANGE feels that way and that prevents the stakes from ever being more than characters yelling empty threats at one another.

More than Derrickson alone, the fault for DOCTOR STRANGE lies with Marvel Studios. Kevin Feige, who is absolutely a marketing genius with the way he has handled the MCU, played it very safe by enlisting former Ain't It Cool News editor C. Robert Cargill and PROMETHEUS screenwriter Jon Spaihts to script this movie. DOCTOR STRANGE is by no means a pivotal character in the MCU at large, but there is just so much more that could have been done with the material. Even the brilliant Michael Giacchino falls a bit flat with the score for this movie and that guy managed to pull off a decent orchestral soundtrack for ROGUE ONE on very short notice. Everything about DOCTOR STRANGE is the definition of formulaic and doesn't do anything unique or special for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which it absolutely did need to do. ANT-MAN, which itself was not a home run for Marvel, at least differentiated itself with a sense of humor. DOCTOR STRANGE just exists.

The UnPopular Opinion, Doctor Strange, Marvel Studios, Superhero, Comic Book, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Fantasy

When I attended San Diego Comic Con last year, DOCTOR STRANGE was still several months away from release and the presentation put on by the studio filled the audience with hopes that the movie would redefine the MCU by introducing the mystical arts to big screen universe. I was ready and bought in to love the movie but it just didn't happen. DOCTOR STRANGE represents for the Marvel Cinematic Universe what CARS did for Pixar: a hollow entry into an otherwise stellar track record. Is it terrible? No, not at all. Is it good? Sure, I guess from a technical standpoint. But being neither bad nor great doesn't really fly these days when you have the same studio putting out products like CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. When the bar is raised, you have to rise up to the challenge. There is a great film to be made with Stephen Strange and it can now be done with this movie out of the way. It just better be done by someone other than Scott Derrickson.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to alexmaidy@joblo.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!

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Source: JoBlo.com

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8:33AM on 02/24/2017
I thought Doctor Strange was enjoyable enough - for me the weakest point was the portrayal of the movie's big threat (not Mikkelsen's character, but the one whose power he was using) who ended up being a big CGI face, which is never good really - it felt a bit cobbled together compared to the rest of the movie.
Oddly the major high point for me was the 3D. I generally avoid 3D screenings if I can, but took a while to see Doctor Strange so that was the only option. Some of the best 3D effects
I thought Doctor Strange was enjoyable enough - for me the weakest point was the portrayal of the movie's big threat (not Mikkelsen's character, but the one whose power he was using) who ended up being a big CGI face, which is never good really - it felt a bit cobbled together compared to the rest of the movie.
Oddly the major high point for me was the 3D. I generally avoid 3D screenings if I can, but took a while to see Doctor Strange so that was the only option. Some of the best 3D effects I've ever seen, due largely to the trippy, warped reality nature of some scenes - the film just really suited the format.
Overall I wasn't disappointed by Doctor Strange, but if it ever gets a straight sequel instead of having him show up in other characters' films I hope it can take things to a new level.
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2:21PM on 02/23/2017
-DR. STRANGE; AVENGERS 1 & 2; GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY - 9/10
-THOR 1 & 2 - 7/10
-GREEN LANTERN - 4/10
-INCEPTION; ANT-MAN; ROGUE ONE; CAPTAIN AMERICA 3 - 8/10
-IRON-MAN - 7/10
-THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL - 3/10
-DELIVER US FROM EVIL - 1/10
-SINISTER - 6/10
-PROMETHEUS - 5/10
-DR. STRANGE; AVENGERS 1 & 2; GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY - 9/10
-THOR 1 & 2 - 7/10
-GREEN LANTERN - 4/10
-INCEPTION; ANT-MAN; ROGUE ONE; CAPTAIN AMERICA 3 - 8/10
-IRON-MAN - 7/10
-THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL - 3/10
-DELIVER US FROM EVIL - 1/10
-SINISTER - 6/10
-PROMETHEUS - 5/10
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1:02PM on 02/23/2017
YeahIi kinda agree. For being set in a weird alternate reality the film was sort of formula plot-wise. And while the visuals were impressive looking they did seem borrowed from Inception and also the animator Cyriak (not sure if he was involved or not but he has channel on YouTube.)
YeahIi kinda agree. For being set in a weird alternate reality the film was sort of formula plot-wise. And while the visuals were impressive looking they did seem borrowed from Inception and also the animator Cyriak (not sure if he was involved or not but he has channel on YouTube.)
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11:58AM on 02/23/2017
I love this movie. In my opinion its probably the best Marvel movie since Winter Soldier. Took a character I new little about and made him interesting to the point where I went out and bought some of the old comics. Can't wait for more Strange.
I love this movie. In my opinion its probably the best Marvel movie since Winter Soldier. Took a character I new little about and made him interesting to the point where I went out and bought some of the old comics. Can't wait for more Strange.
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11:30AM on 02/23/2017
I like Scott Derrickson's direction of Doctor Strange as he even put some a bit scary moment and some funny ones into the movie. Doctor Strange may not be the best Marvel solo movie (in my opinion, Iron Man 1 is the best) but it's far from being the worst.
I like Scott Derrickson's direction of Doctor Strange as he even put some a bit scary moment and some funny ones into the movie. Doctor Strange may not be the best Marvel solo movie (in my opinion, Iron Man 1 is the best) but it's far from being the worst.
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11:11AM on 02/23/2017
Overall, i dont think the MCU has produced an all out bad movie. Even Iron Man 2 and Thor Dark World are good movies. That is, they are good compared to, say, Daredevil (2004), Suicide Squad, Superman Returns, and any Fantastic Four movie. When talking about the worst superhero movies, nothing on the MCU roster would the list. Some MCU films like Civil War, Iron Man, and Avengers would easily make a best of list, so compared to those movies, yes Doctor Strange kinda sucks. Its incredibly
Overall, i dont think the MCU has produced an all out bad movie. Even Iron Man 2 and Thor Dark World are good movies. That is, they are good compared to, say, Daredevil (2004), Suicide Squad, Superman Returns, and any Fantastic Four movie. When talking about the worst superhero movies, nothing on the MCU roster would the list. Some MCU films like Civil War, Iron Man, and Avengers would easily make a best of list, so compared to those movies, yes Doctor Strange kinda sucks. Its incredibly formulaic and relies too much on special effects. There is nothing inherenty bad about these things, its just we've seen them way too much before. I felt like i was watching Iron Man over again, this time with Inception-style visuals. It was entertaining enough, the acting was as charismatic as the script would allow, and the visuals, while cliche, were well done. The movie is fine, but being in the league of huge blockbusters and larger than life characters we kind of expect more. If Doctor Strange were the only superhero movie marvel has released since 2007, i'd call it one of the best super hero movies ever. But unfortunately for it's sake, its surrounded itself with giants
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11:09AM on 02/23/2017
I know I gave Doctor Strange praise when it first came out, but after seeing it a few more times after, I was wrong. It's not that great when you compare it to previous Marvel films and just feels like a 'by the numbers' origins film. Visually the movie is fantastic with some great sequences throughout, but I just thought the story could have been better in terms of character development (I didn't like the idea of him transitioning so fast despite how brilliant the character is) and would have
I know I gave Doctor Strange praise when it first came out, but after seeing it a few more times after, I was wrong. It's not that great when you compare it to previous Marvel films and just feels like a 'by the numbers' origins film. Visually the movie is fantastic with some great sequences throughout, but I just thought the story could have been better in terms of character development (I didn't like the idea of him transitioning so fast despite how brilliant the character is) and would have liked to have seen him struggle a bit more in coming into his own when learning and processing his powers. I will say that the rivalry with him and Mordo and the character development and reveal of The Ancient One was very well done and am excited to see a Strange/Mordo rivalry down the line in future films like Thor and Loki. And it would have been nice to see more of Mads as Kaecilius and to have gotten maybe some flashbacks with him when he was in Strange's position and to have seen him grow to the point of despising the Ancient One.

Again, the film is fun and entertaining, but just not up to Marvel's standards when compared to previous films that came before it. The visuals were great, action was creative and imaginative, it's just that considering the world Strange gets involved and invested in, I just wanted and was expecting more from the film entirely.

I will say that I'm very excited to see him again in Infinity War and to see how that film and the Russo Brothers push his powers and boundaries a bit more than what we saw in his origins.
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10:59AM on 02/23/2017

It's Strange...

I agree, in some way, with almost everything you say yet I find it utterly entertaining. It's going to be missing a lot when it doesn't have the benefit of 3D but I saw it twice in the theater (I almost NEVER do that anymore) and can't wait for the Blu-Ray.
I agree, in some way, with almost everything you say yet I find it utterly entertaining. It's going to be missing a lot when it doesn't have the benefit of 3D but I saw it twice in the theater (I almost NEVER do that anymore) and can't wait for the Blu-Ray.
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10:57AM on 02/23/2017

Green Lantern?!

This time you have gone too far!
This time you have gone too far!
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