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Stunning visual effects make up for pacing problems in 'Doctor Strange'

The newest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, "Doctor Strange," tells the story of Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a successful but arrogant neurosurgeon. Strange leads a rich lifestyle and has the power to choose which surgeries to perform based on the skill they involve and the glory they provide, not the good they might do and the people they would most help.

His successful career takes a turn for the worse, however, when a car accident leaves him with a debilitating injury that makes working at his profession impossible.

After undergoing numerous unsuccessful operations, Strange, thinking he easily could’ve fixed himself, decides that Western medicine has failed him and turns to the East.

Up to this point, "Doctor Strange" provides a very compelling struggle for the unlikable but easy-to-root-for protagonist as he tries to unsuccessfully pick up the pieces and fix his life. This is helped by a wonderful performance by Cumberbatch that is all the more impressive due to his use of a convincing if slightly gravelly American accent.

What lets the film down a bit, though, is the plot’s pacing. Details like Strange’s many surgeries, and the process he goes through to master Eastern skills and spells are glossed over. If the film was just 10 minutes longer, these details could have been more thoroughly portrayed, and the passage of time in the story would have been a lot clearer.

Nevertheless, "Doctor Strange" opens with an engaging plight for the main character, and a premise that is very interesting.

After traveling for an indeterminate amount of time, Strange ends up in Nepal, where he is led to Kamar-Taj, a mysterious enclave that is known to help people who have been failed by traditional medicine.

There he meets a mysterious person known as The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). This casting choice has come under much scrutiny, considering that The Ancient One is traditionally Tibetan. Swinton does an adequate job, but I can’t help but think that anyone could have played the character, and done just as well.

At Kamar-Taj, Strange is at first stubbornly resistant to The Ancient One’s lessons, but eventually learns to open his mind to the concept of a multiverse filled with sorcery and magic, where he is able to not only save himself, but the world as well.

This is where the villain comes in. A former student of The Ancient One, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelson) was much like Strange, they just used the skills they were taught and the powers they attained for different purposes.

Kaecilius believes that The Ancient One didn’t give him access to all the powers, especially the power to become immortal, so he chooses to look for this power elsewhere. He eventually finds an evil being named Dormammu, who is bent on destroying the world. Once awakened, Dormammu could grant his followers everlasting life.

Kaecilius’ motivations in the film are very clear and understandable. He feels cheated by The Ancient One, and thinks he deserves the power she is keeping from him.

Dormammu is wasted a little as such an important villain. He should have been utilized better, and his motivations more fully explained.

The special effects throughout "Doctor Strange" are absolutely incredible. They way the world folds in on itself during fight scenes is mesmerizing, and the choreography is equally good. In virtually every action scene, the world shifts around and alters itself like an optical illusion.

All in all, "Doctor Strange" is a very strong entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Strange himself is particularly well cast, and the villain, Kaecilius, has clear and understandable motivation as well. The fight scenes are impressive, and contain some inspirational set pieces.

Aside from the pacing that is just too quick, and the underutilization of a popular villain, this film is a definite departure from many other superhero movies, making for a memorable first look at the more magical side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Quinn Zack is a sophomore at Hamburg High School.


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