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‘Dr. Strange’ adds something old, something new to MCU

‘Dr. Strange’ adds something old, something new to MCU

Not quite as Fresh as 'Deadpool,' But Good Nonetheless

By David Lynch

The Marvel Cinematic Universe – the entire superhero genre, in fact – is at a bit of a crossroads. Watching characters like Iron Man, Captain America, and the third iteration of Spider-Man to grace the big screen this century, has become a regular event seemingly more common than teen novel adaptations.

It’s led to a bit of an oversaturation, and Hollywood knows it.

And just when we think we’ve seen it all, along comes R-rated “Deadpool,” the fresh “Guardians of the Galaxy” and the ambitious “Captain America: Civil War” to reshape how the genre can take advantage of the movie medium.

And so we get “Doctor Strange,” Marvel Studio’s first feature-length debut since “Guardians” – and it turns out (mostly) not to be your run-of-the-mill MCU flick.

The action teases to be some of the most immersive we’ve seen from a superhero movie in years, and Benedict Cumberbatch is an immediately welcome addition as the selfish doctor-turned-magician.

It’s a tantalizing start to a film, but ultimately fails to deliver on its promise of being a totally fresh experience.

While for the first time in a long time I found myself wishing I was watching in an IMAX theater, the film’s Rubik’s Cube-on-LSD set pieces don’t seamlessly fold into the plot.

In fact, the film explicitly introduces a loophole that erases any of the stakes that would be suggested by a city literally folding over itself. What we see onscreen almost reflects just how muddled the bigger MCU narrative has become with the addition of this film’s lore.

As far as the elephant in the room goes – yes, the role of Brit Tilda Swinton in an environment clearly evoking an Asian aesthetic sticks out like a sore thumb. Swinton is fine as a Supremely Powerful Do-Gooder, but it feels out of place and inappropriate of Marvel Studios to utilize imagery, architecture and even other characters of Asian origin without going the distance with arguably the film’s most important persona.

Despite its weak direction, there is some new material that “Doctor Strange” brings to the table. For a movie universe that pays seemingly so little attention to the prospect of finality, death is a major theme here, as is its inevitability.

Also, Strange himself is a decidedly morally ambiguous character, with a sense of arrogance that isn’t simply replaced with heroism the first time he dons the cape. Instead, the audience welcomes a more dynamic internal journey.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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