Doctor Strange (2016)
There is little doubt that the reason why the rivalry between the two largest comic groups, Marvel and DC, that the reason that the former is dominating films is the incredible planning that has gone into the creation, production, and release of their movies. Marvel has divided their cinematic universe, MCU, into discrete phases, each one carefully introducing new characters, assembling different teams and building a robust gallery of increasingly powerful villains. Phase one began back in 2008 and concluded four years later. Phase two began in 2013 and extended until 2015. We are now in the third phase of establishing the Marvel universe may have now taken us beyond superheroes defending the Earth out into the cosmos, and it’s a mystical world of magic. This magnitude of planning exceeds what is usually in employed by military organizations and governments. Marvel has been developing and meticulously executing a plan that is now approaching a decade of record-breaking movies. Not only all the box office receipts in the billions of dollars but most of the films have managed to receive exceptional critical acclaim earning them recognition is not only the best comic book movies but incredible films of any genre. Now with the implementation of Marvel’s Phase 3, a pivotal point has been reached. The introduction of magic has finally arrived. The concept established back in the first phase that will be considered magic is a technology far beyond our current understanding. This concept is not new, Isaac Asimov initially forwarded the idea several decades ago. That brings us to the film under consideration, ‘Doctor Strange.' This outing is the third movie featuring the Sorcerer Supreme. The first was abysmal, made for television flick in 1978 followed by an animated movie in 2007 that was part of an official release series by Marvel. Neither of these could prepare you for two are about to see as you sit down to experience this ultimate incarnation of Dr. Stephen Strange.
In keeping with the exceptionally high standards established for the MCU fans and not have to reform for their first encounter with the mind-bending Mystic Arts. The story opens with a bit of a prolog at the rebellious sorcerer Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) company with some of the zealots break into a library of ancient mystic books kept in a secret compound located in Kathmandu, Nepal. After brutally murdering the librarian Kaecilius is one of the books and has out a couple of pages before opening a magical to leave. This installment of the franchise is just an appetizer to tease the audience as we are about to witness some of the most incredible special effects ever committed to film. We then moved back to the mundane world, New York City, where one of the most brilliant neurosurgeons, Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) was asked by his colleague to consult on a particularly tricky procedure. That surgeon was an also Strange’s occasional lover, Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). Dr. Strange is a narcissist, who rose in his brilliance and superiority. It is little effort is picking up a scalpel; Dr. Strange humiliates another surgeon, Dr. Nick West (Michael Stuhlbarg). Later, Strange is back in his luxurious apartment is preparing for a formal dinner. His walk-in closet is cavernous; the draw holding his extensive collection of wristwatches is mechanized, turning the watches for display as he makes his selection. Heading out in his sports car Strange is navigating a twisting country road in the rain. He received a phone call from one of his assistants was forwarded and x-ray for his consideration. Distracted for just a moment, you sidetracked by another vehicle and careened down an embankment during the crash the dashboard falls back crushing both of his hands. When he awakens in the hospital looks in horror at his hands held together by a broad array of pins and metal bars.
The damage is so extensive that even the best surgeons are available in offer little to no hope of any recovery. During one of his sessions of occupational therapy Strange is told by his therapist of a man who had a crushed spine, inoperable, that left him with severe neurological deficit hopelessly unable to walk. He tells the disbelieving Dr. Strange that a miracle occurred and the man experienced a full recovery. After all his options have been exhausted, and most of his bank account depleted, Strange receives the details about the patient, Jonathan Pangborn (Benjamin Bratt). Obsessed with tracking him down Strange finally, finds Pangborn playing basketball. The only thing that he’ll tell him about his recovery was that it was due to the enlightenment of his mind, utilizing techniques he learned in a monastery, Kamar-Taj, located in Kathmandu. Dr. Strange makes his way to the remote location and after much searching finally makes it into an Academy for sorcerers one by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). Initially reluctant to take him on as a student he is convinced by one of the masters in residence, Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Strange has always been a man of science, driven by empiricism unable to even consider the existence of magic. The Ancient One explained that it is just science beyond current understanding and to prove a point she slams the heel and into his chest knocking his astral projection momentarily out of the body. It is at this moment that Stephen Strange realizes that he is on the threshold of a multiverse full of a plethora of possibilities.
All the requisite points contained in a training montage are present in this movie. Thanks to his eidetic memory and is innate ability to correlate and synthesize facts, Dr. Strange makes extraordinary progress accomplishing all more in months than most acolytes could achieve over the course of years. He devours the ancient books of spells becoming familiar with ancient languages during his studies. He strikes up a friendship with the current librarian, Wong (Benedict Wong), the replacement for his predecessor murdered in the first scene. Strange Sue Masters many spells most consider far too advanced for his current status. The Ancient One takes a special interest in his progress as does Master Mordo. The second act of the story begins when one of the three Sanctums that protect the earth supernatural menaces is under attack by Kaecilius and his zealots. They have undergone a ritual based on the stolen pages that allow them to pull supernatural energy from Dormammu of the Dark Dimension, imbuing them with an incredible amount of supernatural power enabling them to come close to defeating Strange and Mordo as they try to defend the New York sanctum. During the explosive battle newly named Master Strange acquires to special artifacts, Eye of Agamotto. Letting him control over time in sentient Cloak of Levitation chooses him as its owner and not only can allow him to fly, but it can also collectively protect its new owner. This segues into the third act which is beyond description and must be experienced.
The character Doctor Strange was the creation of the amazingly talented team of Artist Steve Ditko and writer Stan Lee in 1963. This place the period of his creation is on the precipice of one of the most socially pivotal times in history, the 60s defined by the youth distancing themselves from the establishment and experimenting with various psychotropic substances. The drawings provided by Mr. Ditko are similar in many respects to the Underground Comic books that popularized swirling shapes and colors of the psychedelic artwork. I remember being a fan of these comics and being extremely impressed by my new attention to detail exhibited by Mr. Ditko. The colorful images leaped off the page pulling you into the surreal universe inhabited by sorcerers. But I first learned that Dr. Strange is going to be made into a live-action movie, ignoring the existence of the 1978 attempt, I was very dubious about how well those images in the comic books would translate to the big screen. This would have been entirely impossible to the current level of technology has been realized. The availability of high-resolution video and ‘Real 3-D’, graphics was a prerequisite to achieving a realistic attempt to bring this journey into the imagination to life.
A crucial plot point to this story is the ability of the highly trained up echelon of sorcerers to be able to manipulate time and space. Their control over reality made it possible for them to lift the entire streets containing a myriad of buildings twisting them in impossible angles as they soar into the sky, splitting reforming and careening off in impossible angles. If you thought you saw all this before the 2010 science fiction movie, ‘Inception,' that is akin to believing you understand the works of Nietzsche, Camus, and Sartre because you read the Wikipedia article on their individual bibliographies. The closest I can come to describing what was displayed on the screen is it Steve Ditko and will M. C. Escher dropped a copious amount of psychedelic substances and were able to channel your imaginations practical and CGI special effects employed here. Obviously, many studios are infusing 3-D effects into their movies. Starting with Phase 2, this MCU has taken the illusion that an entirely different level is constantly resetting the gold standard ever higher. Not only is the imagery exceptionally trippy, ideally enhanced by the full use of speakers driven by the 7.1 DTS High Definition Audio. Sounds, music, and dialogue move around the room passing the focus of the soundstage from one speaker to the next. This is not a case of all sizzle, no steak. The narrative is extraordinary in its execution providing the audience with a highly cohesive plot completely devoid of superfluous fillers or plot contrivances. Every single frame is pertinent to driving the story and furthering the character development. Each special effect, the nuances of the set design and costumes are critical to the story and how it unfolds. Thus far most of the installments of the MCU have been exceptional films, but this one is truly groundbreaking. Aside from the technological wonders exhibited here the humanity infused by the fantastic performances elevating the film to greater heights than any previous movie derived from comic books. Benedict Cumberbatch has already made a name for himself mastering such iconic roles as the latest BBC version of Sherlock Holmes and his Academy Award Best Actor nomination for ‘The Imitation Game.' Mads Mikkelsen has considerable experience portraying the incarnation of pure evil thanks to three seasons as the extremely intelligent cannibalistic serial killer, Hannibal Lecter. The synergy achieved through their juxtaposition must be experienced to appreciate.