Doctor Strange – Movie Review

12 Apr

I find myself with curiously mixed feelings about Doctor Strange. On one hand, I enjoyed much of it immensely. There was, as always with Marvel, a nice balance between exciting action, moments of reflection and flickers of humour that made me laugh even in the darkest moments. The solution to the major crisis is very well-played, standing in stark contrast to the battles that ended both Avengers movies. And yet, there were moments – mainly in the adaption of the original comic to the big screen – that grated on me.

The original Doctor Strange was an a-hole, to put it mildly. He only got better after his near-fatal accident and years of training. The movie version is less of a pain in the butt, even before the accident. In some ways, the movie version comes across as a decent guy when we need to think of him as a prat. This is not, however, the real problem. The re-imagined Mordo is also a decent guy, if a little rigid in his thinking. His fall from grace at the end of the movie – in the stinger – actually cheapens the character. I couldn’t help thinking of just how badly Green Lantern messed up its source material, although – in this case – in reverse.

In the original comics, Mordo starts out as a bad guy – the Ancient One’s greatest apprentice who also happens to be evil. He actually pushes Strange into committing himself to his studies, just by providing the motivation to think of something beyond himself that Strange lacked. (Nice job fixing it, villain.) In the movie, Mordo – a man unable to see the world in anything more than black and white – falls to evil through his determination to rid the world of it.

This does add a layer of tragedy to the (genuine) friendship between Mordo and Strange – it’s clear, even at the end, that they genuinely like one another. But at the same time, it provides a layer of excuse for Mordo that was lacking in the comic-book character. This is not someone who is out-and-out evil – and I think this was a mistake, because the world needs to be reminded that evil does exist. This ‘fallen from grace’ theme pervades too many of the Marvel movies and I find it more than a little annoying.

It also undermines some of Strange’s character. Instead of giving him a reason to fight, the movie puts him in places where he has to fight. (And it removes the plot point that the original Ancient One knew very well that Mordo was falling into evil.) I can’t help comparing it to Thor, but that fitted in with Marvel canon.

Overall, this was a good movie. It stands very well on its own – there are hardly any mentions of other parts of the MCU – and remains focused on its characters. But while people may complain about race-swapping some of the older characters, the real problem lies in how they are used. Their flaws are cheapened and so too are they.

YMMV, of course.

11 Responses to “Doctor Strange – Movie Review”

  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard April 12, 2017 at 6:11 pm #

    Interesting review.

    While I haven’t seen the Live Action version of Doctor Strange, I have seen an earlier animated origin story of Doctor Strange.

    In it, the pre-accident Doctor Strange was a jerk although he becomes a jerk mostly because his beloved sister died on his operating table. (Note, I doubt that any real-life doctor would be allowed to operate on a close relative.)

    Its Mordo was the leader of a team of sorcerer-warriors that the Ancient One sent out to battle evil.

    Mordo didn’t “start out” evil in the animated version but was a very arrogant SOB.

    He fell because he didn’t accept that to be the heir/replacement of the Ancient One required a “power set” that Strange turned out to have but he didn’t have. As you said, it weakens the idea that “evil exists”.

    Oh, the animated Ancient One was a male Oriental. 😉

  2. Rob Thompson April 12, 2017 at 6:21 pm #

    While I read Marvel comics in the 60’s and 70’s, I was never that into Dr. Strange. But I enjoyed the movie, and was thrilled to hear Pink Floyd’s Interstellar Overdrive used in the car scene.

  3. Stuart the Viking April 12, 2017 at 10:00 pm #

    From what I’ve seen, Marvel seems to go more towards moral relativism that admit that evil actually exists.

    • jh April 13, 2017 at 3:12 pm #

      I prefer that to the childish black and white thinking. It’s too easy to demonize other people and label them evil without extending them the same grace you would wish to receive.

      For example – Americans may regard themselves as the victims and always the good guys. however, there are millions of people who look at Americans and think “bad guys”. They have lost loved ones, lost homes, lost their wealth, lost their world because of America’s actions. From installing and supporting brutal dictatorships to starting wars, I can see how America could be regarded as a terrorist nation. (We just make it look pretty when we install banana republics and start wars in iraq and Afghanistan while Osama was in Pakistan.)

      I think that more and more, people are demanding a more realistic world representation rather than the childish white hat/black hat world representation of the past.

      I don’t really like Marvel’s world building. The movie was generic and attempted to create some depth. It didn’t work. (I have yet to watch a marvel movie that really works and doesn’t feel like some paint by numbers production.) Compare it to a great work such as The Dark Knight and you see how cheap the marvel universe movies actually are. But I’ll still go because I like to watch the fight scenes. C movies are C movies for a reason but they are still enjoyable to watch.

      Of course we can all agree that explicit child fucking is evil or that committing explicit genocide is evil. It is the implicit child fucking or the implicit genocides that are the more troubling evils that rarely get mentioned or noticed or called out as evil.

      • kilowog77 April 17, 2017 at 2:07 am #

        Wow paint with a broad brush much, with that retrograde logic one could argue every person in the world is complicit with some sort of terrorism.

  4. bexwhitt April 13, 2017 at 1:08 pm #

    I take the whole superhero genre with a pinch of salt, it’s all silly nonsense, but as silly nonsense goes this was OK.
    Bad irresponsible driving leads to super powers OK I think‽

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard April 13, 2017 at 2:01 pm #

      Bad irresponsible driving leads to super powers

      Nope, in the Marvel world, Strange like other magicians had the potential to access magical forces.

      All the accident did was to send Strange on a path that leads to him using that potential.

      • bexwhitt April 13, 2017 at 9:25 pm #

        Yes, I did pay full retail to watch this so I was paying attention, his stupid driving just pissed me off.

  5. Kell Harris April 14, 2017 at 8:13 am #

    I really liked the movie. The special effects in that move were own point. I thought Dr strange was very interesting. For such a strange power they grounded it well with the characters. I kind off like the fact that the Mordo guy became disillusioned and out to kill all magicians at the end. I think that’s evil. Just because he thinks he is doing the right thing doesn’t lessen the act of killing innocent people.

  6. Doctor Strange August 28, 2017 at 4:30 pm #

    I love Doctor Strange, he makes me remember to Tony Stark: Handsome, Talent but too Confident. Your review is awsome, I have already read the review at: but after reading your, you change my mind intermediately. Your review is ther best up to now! Thanks you!

  7. August 1, 2020 at 8:21 am #

    Strange may be a character that hews too close to the model of rich, egotistical white men with which superhero films are obsessed. But the film had the opportunity to do something different, by showing the interior of a character forced to rethink everything he knows and the nature of reality itself. Instead, “Doctor Strange” falls into some significant narrative mistakes.

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