#1 movie, weekend of 11/11-11/13/16
What it is: A Marvel universe superhero movie in which a cocky surgeon (Benedict Cumberbatch) develops mystical powers in his quest to recover after a disabling injury, then has to fight some guys who are using those mystical powers for evil.
Did you know that Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson’s first feature film was Hellraiser: Inferno, the fourth Hellraiser sequel and the first to be released direct to video? Inferno is actually surprisingly good, and it’s gratifying to see that Derrickson was eventually tapped for bigger gigs. (I feel the same way about Joe Chappelle, who directed Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, which I consider a well-executed production of an unsalvageably bad script, and who went on to serve as a director and executive producer on The Wire.)
Anyway, Doctor Strange is fine. I said in my review of The Magnificent Seven that I think a lot of art has no compelling reason to exist, and that’s definitely the case here: The plot is a paint-by-numbers retread of the standard superhero formula in which a broadly sketched protagonist gets some powers, learns how to use them, and then fights some vaguely defined interdimensional supervillain who’s trying to destroy a major city. I’ve actually been dealing with hand pain/injuries that have interfered with my ability to work, so the fact that a movie in which that’s basically the hero’s origin story didn’t provoke any big reaction from me goes to show how little the creators were invested in getting anyone to take the narrative seriously.
But the formulaic nature of these films kind of makes them more like a lot of stage productions: We all know what happens in Romeo and Juliet or whatever, but you might still be interested in how the actors interpret the characters, what the production designers come up with, etc. And the execution here is pretty good. Cumberbatch is good, the script is witty enough, and the special effects are actually dazzling at times, which is a hard thing to pull off these days. Doctor Strange is no Hellraiser: Inferno, of course, but I enjoyed it. Feel free to put that on the poster, guys.