Doctor Strange [Celluloid Hero]
Doctor Strange (2016)
As Marvel continues to expand their Cinematic Universe beyond the biggest names, we’re going to keep seeing movies with characters that the average movie-goer/comic fan (like me) doesn’t know a whole lot about. I knew there was a superhero named Doctor Strange, I knew he had mystical powers, but that was about it. I went into this pretty much blind (like I did for Guardians of the Galaxy) so there was blank slate potential for me to be wowed, but for the first time, I ended up disappointed in the MCU.
Stephen Strange is a brilliant surgeon; one of the finest in the world. His genius is accompanied by a cockiness and rudeness, looking down on his coworkers, pushing away love interests, and generally just being a dick. An eye-popping car accident (DON’T TEXT AND DRIVE) leads to a number of pins and plates being implanted into Strange’s hands, ruining his career. After Western medicine fails him, he turns to the East for a more holistic approach. While in Tibet, he meets The Ancient One, who brings him into the world of sorcery and magic. While The Avengers deal with protecting our dimension, The Ancient One leads an order that is devoted to protect other dimensions. A rogue student is battling the group, and Strange takes the lead on the defensive.
Tony Stark was a dick, too, but he managed to be charming while doing it. Stephen Strange didn’t have that same appeal. Whether it was an issue of the acting of Robert Downey Jr vs Benedict Cumberbatch, or just the script, or the director’s vision, Strange just ended up being unsympathetic and hard to root for.
The supporting cast didn’t impress me much either. There was a lot of controversy over the casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One. In the comics, The Ancient One is a Tibetan monk – Tilda is very much not Tibetan. The producers said they actually wanted to get away from the cliche of the “wise old Asian master” trope, which I get, and even though I normally really like Swinton, it just never felt right. I still haven’t found the appeal of Rachel McAdams; Chiwetel Ejiofor was pretty blah; Mads Mikkelsen was a good fit for the villain, but still just felt sort of paint-by-numbers.
Despite a weak cast, the visuals were outstanding. Strange’s car crash was harrowing, and all of the transporting from other dimensions, the hand sparklers, the sentient cape, the altering of reality, it all added up to a product that was perfect for the comic book feel. It’s tough to recreate the imagination of comic books to film, and it seems like Marvel keeps pushing further to expand those boundaries. I’m still interested to see how the MCU keeps intertwining, but I feel like Doctor Strange has been the weakest link in the chain thus far.
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On the [Celluloid Hero] scale, “Doctor Strange” gets a 4 out of 10.