Monday night I went to see Dr. Strange with a friend. I wasn't expecting much, just harboring the vague hope I always have with sci f/fantasy that it wouldn't totally suck and would at least be a much-needed diversion from the all-too-real world. After all, I was hugely disappointed by the last Star Trek movie Beyond, and the last Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens. Both suffered from what most big action movies in this genre seem to suffer from: tired plots, way too much reliance on special effects, frenetic action that doesn't add anything to the story, no real character development, endings where all the shit blows up.
So, wow, was I pleasantly surprised with Dr. Strange. Yes, it had the elements that make up a super hero type movie, amazing special effects (wow oh wow, eye-popping ones), a villainous villain that must be defeated at all cost, discovery of super powers, and a love interest. But the movie took these basic elements and imho made a truly satisfying movie with a hero who actually changes over the course of the story and can only overcome the villain by overcoming the weaknesses in himself (cool huh, actual character arc), a great script, lots of dialogue (when did movies forget that the most interesting thing is dynamics between humans), some humor, good actors, a very satisfying climax, oh and lots and lots of Benedict eye-candy. Drools!
So, what's it about? Not revealing any real spoilers but putting this under a cut anyway.
In the beginning of the movie, Dr. Strange is a brilliant but arrogant neurosurgeon. He's the best and he knows it. He puts down others who are less gifted, and only accepts cases that will show off his brilliance. Benedict channels his Sherlock persona in the characterization which is way fine with me. Then Strange has a nearly fatal car accident that causes permanent nerve damage to his amazing hands. After many surgeries, he despairs that he'll ever get his life back and fights with his long-suffering girlfriend and fellow surgeon, Dr. Christine Palmer, played by Rachel McAdams. But then he sees a former patient, who had lost the use of his legs, walking around perfectly fine. He tracks the man down and learns from him that he found healing through the mystics in Kathmandu, Nepal. Dr. Strange travels there. Using the last of his money, he finally finds the mystics and meets the Ancient One, played to perfection by Tilda Swinton. God, I loved her character. She gives him an eye-opening jab to his understanding of reality and then kicks him out of the monastery. Despairing that he has no where else to go, no one else to turn to, he spends the entire day pounding on the door. They finally let him in and begin to train him. But of course there is a former disciple who has stolen key pages of a book that allow him to gain unprecedented power. To defeat him, Dr. Strange has to learn how to master time and energy, but even more importantly, he must master his own ego and fear of failure.
I found the solution quite satisfying, especially since it wasn't merely a matter of being able to smash things better than the villains. Although there are plenty of amazing fight scenes, ultimately, winning over the dark powers involves learning humility. Good stuff!
Oh, if you go see it, make sure to stay until the very end of the credits. Two (count 'em) easter eggs.