Doctor Strange review: How does it impact Infinity War?

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What didn’t work?

It seems almost cruel at this point, but the main complaint about Doctor Strange is the same weakness that has marred many of even the best Marvel movies: a weak, forgettable villain.

While the unconquerable Dormammu lurks in the shadows throughout the film, and the talented Chiwetel Ejiofor gives a strong performance as the brave but rigid Karl (don’t call him Baron) Mordo–Strange’s nemesis in waiting–the bulk of the bad guy duties fall to Kaecilius: a bland, mommy-done-me-wrong, destroy-the-world-to-save-it evil sorcerer who has an axe to grind against Strange’s teacher (the descriptively named Ancient One) because….I don’t know, this is never quite clear.

Something about his wife. She got sick or something, causing Kaecilius to seek the help of the Ancient One then become bitter when he found out this guru was a hypocrite, just like all the others.

While it isn’t strictly necessary for Kaecilius and his Zealots to have personalities and goals besides misguided rebels rebelling, the emotional hooks hear are virtually nonexistent. While one gets the sense that the audience might be inclined to sympathize with the head warlocks briefly alluded to tragic backstory, it’s presented so flimsily that it’s practically impossible to care.

More than that, Kaecilius and his cronies fail to even be properly cool or menacing, and end up stomping around in face paint for most of the movie like dissatisfied fans at a KISS concert.

While much was undoubtedly left on the cutting room floor, and he’s really little more than stopgap bridging Strange with his true opponents–who are entertaining and who seem loaded with potential for future films–Kaecilius takes up far to much screen time to be this…blah.

I’ve literally seen more memorable wizards at the Renaissance Festival.

While it pales in comparison to the sheer negative space that is Kaecilius, another problem, this one far trickier to correct, is that there is a sense during the entire film that we’ve sort of seen this one before.

Tell me if you’ve heard this story. A brilliant selfish man who cares only for his own glory and success is horribly wounded. To save his own life, he harnesses his intelligence and drive to become more powerful than he ever imagined. He gains the ability to fly and shoot beams from his hands, realizing along the way that he has neglected a woman that loves him in spite of flaws, and finds new purpose in protecting the world from evil.

Strip away the spells and the magical trappings, trade the surgical gloves for cool sunglasses, and Stephen Strange and Tony Stark have eerily similar backstories and personalities. Now, before you unleash a pure unibeam of focused nerd rage on me, pointing out every way in which they differ and how many comic book characters share archetypal tropes, let me say you’re exactly right.

But we’re not in the realm of comics anymore. Movies, especially blockbusters that exist in the same thematic universe as each other, don’t need and can’t tolerate redundant characters.

With so many options left unexplored, Marvel shouldn’t be rehashing stories about rich white dudes who get a second lease on life through the glorious transformation of serious injury.

There are too many stories out there. Too many heroes and too many versions of iconic characters to package one in almost exactly the same way as you have before.

I loved both movies. And as I said in the previous section, I think RDJ and Cumberbatch are two of the best actors in the series. But I would have preferred a Strange who was starkly different than what we’ve seen before.