Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Doctor Strange (2016)

I caught the latest Marvel superhero movie today, Doctor Strange, at the local AMC theater.
I was pretty surprised to be charged exactly $5.19 for my ticket. I'd heard that some theaters were doing flexible pricing these days, but this was the first time I'd seen it in action. The 11:30 AM Wednesday show (not in 3D) was apparently pretty low on the demand scale. As someone who almost never goes to a theater during peak hours, I approve heartily. I also approve of the recliner-style seating that this particular theater was equipped with, took full advantage of that.

Doctor Strange is an origin story, like most of the other MCU productions featuring a character for the first time. Like most comic book nerds, I knew the basic story already: egotistical surgeon gets into an accident, loses his ability to perform surgery, goes searching for help and finds a mystical world where he becomes a hero. The movie does a fine job going through that origin, even if it feels a bit rushed as Strange goes from inept neonate to battle-sorcerer.

The movie is almost entirely about developing Strange's character, and there's not a whole lot of room for others. The renegade-sorcerer villain is a single-minded, one-dimensional character intent on his path of destruction. The supporting cast of other doctors and magicians mostly just seem to emphasize one aspect of Strange's transition: his old love and professional lives, the mentors leading him into magical domains, the previous master falling to make room for him. I don't think this is a bad thing, since the whole idea is to tell Strange's origin, but it's worth mentioning.

There are a whole lot of special effects in this movie, and they sure seemed well-executed to me. All the MCU films have plenty of CGI muscle behind them, and this one is near the top of the list in sheer amount of visual effects. In several places the entire screen is full of shifting landscapes - even if you haven't seen the movie yet, you've probably seen it in all the commercials - while various characters bounce around, fighting each other and dodging the scenery. A bit overdone, perhaps, but it's certainly impressive.

As with most MCU films, this one has some small tie-ins to the larger universe. Avengers Tower shows up in the New York cityscape, there's mention of an Infinity Stone, and if you stay past the first bit of the closing credits a certain Avenger makes Strange's acquaintance. I'm looking forward to seeing Strange mixed in with the rest of the MCU.

Given the prevalence of sweeping special effects, I'm glad I saw Doctor Strange in the theater. I'm sure it'll look fine on a small screen too, but those kind of visuals have a bigger impact on the big screen. Especially for $5.19.

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