Film Review: Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange

Marvel’s Doctor Strange offers both entertainment and spectacle. The film distinguishes itself from others in the universe in an enjoyable but respectful way.

Doctor Stephen Strange is a renowned neurosurgeon in New York. When an accident leaves him with life-changing injuries, Stephen embarks on a journey hoping to be healed. He is drawn into a mystical world however…

Director Scott Derrickson swaps horror for comic book spectacle with Doctor Strange. The narrative trajectory is similar to that of other superhero movie. The protagonist suffers a traumatic event, and sets off on a journey to find healing and meaning. So far, so Batman Begins. The film is very much an origins story, detailing the journey from arrogant surgeon to superhero.

Where Doctor Strange differs from many comic book movies is in its depiction of the supernatural. Whereas many of the recent Marvel films have sought to explain the abnormal or superhuman, Derrickson’s film is unabashed in its use of magic. This is a refreshing change, and allows for much spectacle. The film focuses on wizardry and the occult, a stark contrast to the pseudo-scientific explanations of Spider-Man et al. In a way, the film is almost anti-science in its outlook. Stephen is not healed by the medicine he has made a career out of, but by opening his mind to the supernatural.

The protagonist is not immediately likeable, yet slowly grows on viewers. There is a feeling that Stephen needs to be humbled, which duly occurs. The film deals with some big ideas, looking beyond perceived reality. However, the humour is a nice counterpart to this. The visuals in Doctor Strange are very impressive. Special effects and production design are brilliant. There is a real sense of spectacle, this is aided by the use of 3D.

Benedict Cumberbatch puts in a befitting performance as Stephen Strange. He is ably assisted by Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, and Benedict Wong. Mads Mikkelsen is given little to do.

With an unexpected but welcome climactic scene, Doctor Strange seeks to differentiate itself from other Marvel films. A very likeable addition to the universe.

Film Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man is a decent summer blockbuster. Despite being entertaining, Marc Webb’s film may nevertheless suffer from the audience’s superhero fatigue.

Growing up with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, Peter Parker is having difficulties understanding why his parents appeared to abandon him. When he finds a clue about his father’s work, Peter tracks down Dr Curt Connors, former colleague of his father. Visiting Connors at his work, something strange happens to Peter in the lab…

The Amazing Spider-Man features everything that viewers would expect from a superhero movie; a personal transformation, big action set pieces and a love story. The narrative offers nothing particularly original; it is the same journey that has featured in other films of this type. Nonetheless, Peter Parker is a likeable and well-developed protagonist. Moreover, The Amazing Spider-Man is well paced, and entertains throughout.

Marc Webb’s film really does not do anything wrong. The problem with it is the feeling of déjà vu it provokes. After all, it has only been ten years since the last Spider-Man franchise began. More telling are the allusions to various Batman films. References, seemingly indeliberate, appear to recall Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

The effects in The Amazing Spider-Man are good overall. It certainly does not seem as if the CGI in this film will age quite as quickly as its 2002 predecessor. The extra dimension also works well, with Spider-Man swinging through the New York landscape being a particular highlight of the 3D. James Horner’s score is fitting, although it can make emotional moments seem excessively saccharine.

Andrew Garfield makes a good Peter Parker. His chemistry with Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacey makes their scenes together a joy to watch. Rhys Ifans makes a suitable antagonist for this origins tale, though the character may have struggled to be a  worthy opponent in an epic battle.

The Amazing Spider-Man is an enjoyable film. The problem is that it does not elevate itself to the level of Avengers Assemble and The Dark Knight. In these days of abundant superhero movies, it is this echelon that needs to be reached in order for a film of this kind to be box office-breaking and truly memorable.