BlokeBusting The Essentials #46: Doctor Strange
#46: Doctor Strange
Movie-Goers, We’ve Come To Bargain
Well folks, we’ve finally hit the first proper MCU film in the list. So, let me get a few things straight before we continue:
- I love the MCU. I’ll admit that happily. However, I want to be clear that I will still be looking at the MCU films (as much as possible) as individual entries and judging them by how they hold up, any flaws and/or great parts, good/bad acting and so on.
- I am a Cumberbatch fan. Sherlock is one of the best TV shows created as far as I’m concerned, he was fantastic as Hawking in the TV film of the same name and he’s an overall lovely man. Again, I bring this up to be transparent. But also I hope it’ll help you give me a little slack a bit further down the article…
Ok, on with the review!
This film was one that I really was looking forward to when I heard about it. I was not a comic reader, though I did know a few things about it through basic osmosis and the fact that I’m a nerd with an internet connection. I heard the rumours, I really enjoyed hearing the casting news and I was a little thrown by the controversy surrounding The Ancient One. However, I went into the cinema to watch this very ready. What followed was a visual feast and some interesting choices. I have rewatched this film twice since then, for two different reasons, and it remains essentially unchanged as far as I’m concerned. So, how did it do?
This film marked a bit of a risk for the MCU. Where as GOTG had a whole team of funny (for different reasons) characters to use for comedic effect throughout the film, thus making the “lesser known” gang easier for new audiences to digest, Dr Strange is different. The premise and ending are just as out there as GOTG, but we only really have Strange to lean on throughout the film. Perhaps it was a mark of Marvel realising that we will happily watch new IP’s, since GOTG did so well, or a sign of how much the studio trusted the actors and director, but what we got was a film stepped in fantastical spiritual messages, a couple of sequences that were clearly dreamt up after a very good LSD trip and some stunning visuals. All this, including symbolism and setting from Tibetan culture, led by a cast that’s primarily Western. I will say that I feel kinda conflicted about that. I refuse to believe that there were not many great actors/actresses who could have done the job, though I do understand that the studio clearly wanted well known and established actors/actresses to help deliver the strangest (pun-intended) MCU film of them all to date to the average patron with the minimum of difficulty. Anyway, it wasn’t as bad as the live action GITS film. That one hurt. As in physically hurt…
- Dr Strange
BC is a joy to watch, in everything else. He’s also very good at what he does in this one. He’s smarmy with just the right amount of character development throughout the film, he’s really good at reacting to the incredible things with distrust/disbelief/acceptance and he really does look cool once he gets fully decked out as the Sorcerer Supreme. So I’d say he totally killed it. Well, 95% killed it. There’s one small, tiny, little thing. That accent. In case you didn’t know, BC is English. Even his name, Benedict Cumberbatch, is a HUGE giveaway. But whoever decided that he needed to put on an accent that harsh, that extreme and that strong needs to be talked to. It’s VERY distracting. Every scene where he has a lot of dialogue just has you watching knowing that he’s putting on a show. As I said, everything else is great! That voice is simply grate…
- Sorcerer Supreme (The Ancient One)
Tilda Swinton is always fun to see. She’s played a rather wide range of characters over the years. And I thought she did very well as the leader with a dark secret. However, I was kinda surprised to learn that the community was very thrown by her casting. The character is designed to be gender-neutral in the film, and I feel that they do that well. But the character in the comics was of Tibetan descent and many people were dismayed that a white actor was playing the role. Again, I think that the studio had a reason for doing this and I fully acknowledge that the MCU is a different beast to the comics, but it would have been nice to see a more accurate representation (although a little research will tell you that the director felt that the original comics treaded too close to racist territory in that regard and didn’t want to risk that in the film). Regardless, what we got was still very good and I appreciated that the character clearly acted using their own morals and rationalisations. It was kinda fun to see a character die without a solid, neat ending to everything.
I really liked Wong. He was the comic relief, he was a straight man to Strange’s rogue manner and he had some of the best lines in the film. And despite being used mostly for comedic effect, he was possibly the character that most people were drawn to. There’s not much else to say here, he’s just a great character that was used well. Go Wong!
I know that this actor has done a lot of stuff. However I will say that I’ve seen him in just this and Serenity. So he has a type apparently. Anyway, this character felt a little stiff. He only existed to be the one that gets disillusioned and leaves the path of righteousness. And we already had that with the primary protagonist. They did give him the WiFi joke though, so there’s that.
Mads, Mads, Mads. You were perfectly cast, though this villain was a bit of an odd one. He was powerful, more so than most of the main characters, and he knows it. However he’s also adept at using said power, which actually makes most of the film turn into a chase scene when he’s on screen as Strange runs away. He actually is interesting and could have had some fantastic moments, but this film had to hold back. I would have been more interested in having him in the second film, possibly connected to a different entity. that way you could have spent more time on his story. Ah well.
Yes, that’s BC again. Bet you didn’t notice that one! Anyway, this character is VERY interesting and this film only touches on him a little. But it REALLY uses him well. Anyone who doesn’t start grinning during the “I’ve come to bargain” scene just doesn’t know funny. I’m very intrigued to see what they do with him moving forward. That’s it, moving on.
The MCU had already taken its big risk with GOTG, as I mentioned earlier. However this film was possibly a bigger risk than that. It has by far the weirdest visuals in the entire franchise, it’s based on characters that can work on paper but would actually be tricky to get properly balanced on film and the main villain is only actually on-screen for less than 5 minutes (that’s 13 minutes less than Beetleguese!). All-in-all, this would have been THE film that showed Marvel if they had earned enough clout with audiences to get bums in seats when it’s not a more well known character. There’s no gang of intrepid heroes, there’s no space battles and there’s no talking tree. It’s a man who loses the use of his hands and simply wants them back stumbling into the mysteries of the cosmos and coming away with astonishing magic powers. Benedict Cumberbatch is the face of the film, and he’s the one who needs to carry it forward. The film made roughly 3 times its budget in the Box Office and really showed Marvel that they were doing things right and could now not worry about bringing in other characters. And bloody hell, did they! But that’s a conversation for another time.
While I had only watched this film once before, it always stuck with me. In part because I had watched and enjoyed the cartoon version of Doctor Strange’s origin story that had come out several years before so I knew more or less what I was getting into. Benedict Cumberbatch was an obvious choice for the role and he plays the arrogant know-it-all as well as anyone. And while the MCU didn’t really need another rich and talented white guy superhero alongside Tony Stark, it’s nice to bring in a mystical element to the MCU, and Scott Derrickson brought a unique visual style that really captured the mind bending alternate dimensions that the Doctor Strange comics are known for. That, and I’m a sucker for a little time travel mixed into a movie. The love story was a nice touch that didn’t overwhelm the narrative, it was given just enough weight to ground the character and the visuals are just absolutely gorgeous to look at. It’s a fun movie with a handful of serious moments.
As far as its place in the MCU, there was a bit of controversy in the form of the Ancient One. While the character was traditionally a stereotypically elderly Asian man in the style of Confucius, the filmmakers decided to avoid the stereotype while still taking the role away from an Asian actor and instead gave it to Tilda Swinton. For my part, I think she does an amazing job, and at least they kept one Asian actor with Wong, but for a story that has so much to do with Asian culture, it was a bad call to have so few Asian actors in it. In terms of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and box office, this actually ranks in the lower third but that still comes with an $85M opening weekend and a $677M overall take, certainly nothing to sneeze at. It’s a little early to tell how much of a role he will play in the later Marvel movies, though he is definitely coming back for a sequel. This also continued somewhat of a trend with horror movie directors given superhero movies like Sam Raimi before him and James Wan after, as Derrickson was most well known for Sinister before this film.
Our Epic Conclusion
Alrighty. So, we’ve reached the main 3 questions again. Just in case you weren’t sure what they were, we wrote them down here beside the Wi-Fi password:
1) Would I recommend this film to others?
2) Does it deserve to be on this list?
3) How do I rank the films thus far?
And, without further ado, beating around the bush or other idioms, here we go:
- Yes. If you’re an MCU fan, you need to see this. The character is quite important, for one, and the entire cast is really fun to watch. If you’re not an MCU fan, you need to see this. The creative decisions within this film make it a visual joy to behold and need to be seen on the biggest screen you can find.
- I would say yes, for all the reasons mentioned above and more. Though I think you guys could probably have worked that out by now!
- Good question me! Here’s the current rankings:
1) Dr Strange
2) Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
3) Batman: The Killing Joke
4) Superman 3
5) The Wild Wild World Of Batwoman
7) Batman & Robin
8) The Amazing Spider-Man
9) BvS: Dawn Of Justice
Wonder Woman (replacing The Death Of The Hulk)
Yeah, I couldn’t justify placing this anywhere else. The visuals, the cast, the subject matter, the overall feel of the film and more just add up to a fantastic and very well made Superhero film. Congratulations Dr Steven Strange on your victory over Dr Horrible!
And so another review draws to a close. We’ll be back next month with a look at another film on the list, one that many will assume that I won’t like. As if I would be that catty…
Anyway, always be sure to carry your Sling Ring with you, just in case!