Doctor Strange Days

My brother and sister-in-law gave me a Kudo TV box contraption for my birthday. It is a type of media software that, according to its own literature, allows the user to “watch and stream online and offline content.”

When my brother Mike showed his own Kudo to me (just moments before my sister-in-law fell down the stairs and broke her foot in a billion places—story for another time), and demonstrated how you could watch movies and television shows that weren’t even released to DVD, I asked, “Is this even legal?” To which Mike shrugged and smiled.

I’m still not sure about the legality of the whole thing. I do know it’s legal to buy and legal to own, though. Everything else seems to be in question. I received mine as a gift, and I’ve since decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth.

I’ve had the Kudo for less than a month. I’ve used it to watch a Steelers game that wasn’t televised in my area (they lost), and I watched the cartoon movie Batman: the Killing Joke. This past Sunday, I was awake too early in the morning, and decided to watch the new movie, still in theaters, Doctor Strange.

I was going to go watch the movie in the theater. In fact, I had planned to go on Sunday. And, I still may, since I’d like to see it on the big screen and in 3D. But, being able to watch it during the predawn hours on a Sunday morning while the movie is still in theaters seemed a lot like magic to me.

And probably illegal, but we’re not going to dwell on that.

I’m going to dwell on the movie for a bit.

As you can probably tell by my rambling preamble, I am not a professional movie critic, so this is not a professional movie review. This is the review written by an admitted former comic fanboy and current fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (known affectionately as the MCU) that officially began with the release of Iron Man, starring the now-redeemed Robert Downey Jr. (known affectionately as RDJ). At this point, I believe I’ve seen every MCU movie (I’ll look at a checklist later). Plus, I’m a fan of ‘Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD,’ the now-sadly-defunct ‘Marvel’s Agent Carter,’ and the Netflix shows about Daredevil and Jessica Jones, which I’m in the process of watching. I haven’t watched ‘Marvel’s Luke Cage’ yet, but I will. In addition, I was an avid comic book reader from the time I started to read until I went off to college. I got back into comics a little in my early 30s when Image Comics came out, and I still dabble today, though I am not a regular reader of any one title. While I like a lot of DC and the independents, I’ve said ‘Make Mine Marvel’ since I was in junior high school. The Marvel heroes were what I loved the most.

The previous paragraph was meant to communicate my bona fides to you, as a fan not as an expert of the cinematic arts. Just so you will know what my particular biases are, my slant. I’m a fan. So, know ahead of time that I’m not going to hate this movie. We are blessed to live during a time in which these types of superhero movies are technologically possible. Things we never thought we’d ever see realized on the silver screen are now possible. More than possible: they exist.

I read the early Lee/Ditko Dr. Strange stories in reprint form decades ago, and again recently. Strange was Marvel’s ‘weird’ character when all the superheroes wore long underwear, and Steve Ditko, of Spider-Man fame, was Marvel’s ‘weird’ artist. This movie hearkens back to those original stories and artwork. And, it does so masterfully.

All of basic plot points remain the same. Stephen Strange is a renown surgeon with the requisite and stereotypical arrogance and God-complex who is humbled by an accident that robs him of the use of his hands. Unable to find a cure in western medicine, he travels to the far east and searches for mystical remedies. He discovers, or is discovered by, the Sorcerer Supreme known as The Ancient One, and Dr. Strange himself becomes a mighty sorcerer.

That is Dr. Strange’s essential origin story and the basic plot of this movie. The Ancient One was an elderly Asian man in the comics but is now Tilda Swinton with a shaved head. I’m okay with that. Wong, in the comic, was Dr. Strange’s man-servant, much like Alfred is to Batman, but, in the movie, is not subservient to Strange, but is, rather, a fellow sorcerer. He is still Asian, however. Mordo, who we know is destined to become the evil Baron Mordo, is a friend to Strange in this movie. In the spirit of diversity, he is now a black man rather than an older white man, but that’s okay as well. I, for one, am not bothered by the gender and race fluidity in casting these movies. It keeps it fresh.

The important casting was that of Stephen Strange himself. If there exists a better choice than Benedict Cumberbatch, I couldn’t imagine it. He is perfect in the role. I’m not sure why he had to speak with an American accent instead of his natural British one, since I think we would all be willing to be fluid on Strange’s nationality as well. But, Cumberbatch is pitch perfect in portraying the good doctor, flaws and all.

In addition to the Ancient One, Mordo, Wong, the Eye of Agamotto, the cloak of levitation, and the Sanctum Sanctorum, Dormammu makes an appearance as well. I like his more cosmic representation in the movie, which is more impressive than a costumed villain with a flamed-on Johnny Storm head. Curiously lacking in the movie are Nightmare, Cleo, and Eternity, but you have to save something for the inevitable sequel.

The visual effects are truly mind-boggling, and are an appropriate visual representation of the mystic arts. Will some of the effects remind you of the movie Inception? Sure, but they go way beyond that.

I’m not saying that this is the perfect movie. But, it is entertaining, which is what I’m primarily looking for in my entertainment. Plus, it is faithful to the source material, which is important to fans of the original stories.

No surprises here. I liked it. Two thumbs up.

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