Doctor Strange (2016) – reviewed by George

I watched this DVD starting at 11:45 A.M. today, and I have to say this must be the darkest movie ever made. I could be wrong, it might just be ONE of the darkest, but I was in the den watching a 50-inch TV screen, and the wall behind me was made of glass, and it’s a sunny day. So it’s impossible for me to give you more than a simple sketch of what the film is about – I couldn’t see most of it.
Benedict Cumberbatch plays Dr. Stephen Strange, neurosurgeon, working with Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) whose skills he accepts, and with Dr. Nicodemua West (Michael Stuhlbarg), whose skills he finds distinctly inferior. And he doesn’t mind at all letting Dr. West know that.
Strange is injured in an automobile accident and the nerves in his hands are severely damaged. Dr. Palmer, almost in tears, tells him, “The golden hours for nerve damage went by while you were in the car.” He can no longer operate, so has no reason to live. He meets a former patient, whose prognosis was very bad, and the man, Jonathan Pangborn (Benjamin Bratt), is playing basketball. Dr. Strange, amazed, is told that Pangborn learned how to heal himself in Nepal. Cut to Strange in Nepal, looking for and eventually finding the place of learning, led by The Ancient One (a bald Tilda Swinton). He meets her followers: a good Wong (Benedict Wong) and a bad Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Now we have Eastern Thought and Philosophy 101, heavily filtered through spells and magic.
The major villain is Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), and he will bring the world into the possession of Agamotto, with basically just Strange between Agamotto and the earth’s destruction. (Try saying “Agamotto” like the joke about Boris Karloff as an Italian waiter: “Antipasto?”)
Sounds full of itself, but the film is actually pretty good, despite being hard to follow because of the almost constant darkness. I especially liked the conversations between Dr. Strange and The Ancient One. At one point she is teaching him and he says, “That makes no sense.” She replies, “Not everything does. Not everything has to.”
And later he speaks of finally excelling and she says, “You always excelled. But not because you craved success, but because of your fear of failure.”
He says, “That’s what made me a great doctor.”
And she tells him, “It’s precisely what kept you from greatness. Arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest but most significant lesson of all.”
“Which is?”
“It’s not about you.”
Written by Jon Spaihts and Scott Derrickson & C. Robert Cargill, and directed by Scott Derrickson, there will of course be a second Dr. Strange film. Hints from just before and just after the credits: Strange tells Thor that he will help catch Loki if he and Thor (and Odin) leave Earth never to return, and Kaecilius says the world has too many sorcerors.
Someday, years from now, I may get up in the middle of the night and watch this in total darkness, but I’ll probably be too old to remember that I said I would in this review.

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