Doctor Strange (2016) Movie Review
Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson, and C. Robert Cargill
Another day, another Marvel movie released to make hundreds of millions of dollars for those who want McDonald$, Di$ney, and _____(insert generic but profitable brand here).
You want vanilla. You get vanilla. That’s not really a complaint, even though there’s never really been anything at stake in the MCU except making money. They’re pricey, disposable entertainment that I’ve always found diverting even though we all know they’re recycling the same formula over and over and over…
If it aint broke…$$$$$
Marvel’s newest episode in its long running theatrically released TV Series is Doctor Strange, which sent virulent fanboys r*bbing them o*t even rawer than usual with its Cumberbatch casting and Inception aping trailer.
The movie itself is enjoyable enough standalone Marvel, though you may find yourself rolling your eyes as writer/director Scott Derrickson (the awful The Day the Earth Stood Still remake with Keanu ducking Reeves, the excellent horror film Sinister with Ethan clucking Hawke) and writers C. Robert Cargill and Jon Spaights try to stuff a mindless cartoon with fortune-cookie speak (“You have to go right, in order to go left”, “Surrender”, “In order to hit the Ball, you must be the Ball”) cribbed from the bumper stickers of cars parked at Whole Foods.
But even as you’re rolling your eyes, you’re still having fun.
The plot (such as it is). This is Marvel, and after 563 Marvel movies released since the first Iron Man, you really don’t give a f*ck about plot.
Strange opens with Kaecilius (the great Mads Mikkelsen playing generic Marvel villain #7854) attacking what looks like a very old library filled with Asian people (shocker there) and some token white people.
His mission: To steal the pages of a very special book bound in chains which he just slips off with the greatest of ease.
At this point, we’re thinking “Why doesn’t he just steal the entire book?” Because that would make too much sense.
As he’s making his getaway, Kaecilius is chased by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton,-The Dead Don't Die- , an actress I find so endearingly odd that I wondered if her shaved head and downtown dojo outfit was just something she wears on the weekends and she really wasn’t aware she was shooting a movie) throughout what seems to be many dimensions/earthly cities while doing a lot of wavy hand gestures that you see at any hippie co-op when those d-bags do Tai Chi on the lawn.
At this point we’re thinking “Wow, they really are ripping off Inception, like a lot”. Yes, yes they are.
Kaecilius gets away and the Ancient One and her black butler Mordo (Chiwitel Ejiofor) are left having to explain to the librarians why one of the special book’s pages are torn out.
We cut to---
Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). He’s the world’s super goodest surgeon. He’s so good he can do 70s music trivia while performing surgery (whoa). He’s also a cocky prick who alienates everyone around him with his ego and brash behavior, even his ex-lover Doctor Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams, making fetch happen).
At this point we’re thinking “Isn’t Cumberbatch just playing Tony Stark, but instead of being a brilliant arms dealer he’s a brilliant surgeon?”
Yes, that’s true. Cumberbatch is just playing Tony Stark…but with huge differences.
Instead of being a brilliant arms dealer, Strange is a brilliant surgeon.
Instead of having his funvee ambushed and shrapnel getting near his heart, Strange gets into a car accident and loses most of the use of his hands, rendering him the Hawkeye (completely useless) of surgeons.
See. Totally different.
Now Strange has no purpose, no money, and in desperation goes to Katmandu to find some meaning in his life. There he will meet the Ancient One and the longest training montage EVER will take place, complete with inspirational songs, incremental improvement, and more than one person in the audience saying/thinking “This is just like the Matrix.”
Yes. Yes it is.
What Works With Marvel Cash Cow #5665
- Who knew that a cape (The Cape of Levitation, no less) could provide more comic relief than the entire running time of that Halloween Madea movie. In all honesty, I’ve never seen a Madea movie as I’m pretty sure I’m not their target audience (Read: I’m not black).
- Tilda Swinton is perfectly cast as the Ancient One, spitting her Mr. Miyagi dialogue with a twinkle in her eye. She’s taking none of this seriously, and since this is Marvel, neither are you.
- A sequence involving Strange, 3 doors to a desert, ice, and the sea and the aforementioned cape is the most visually pleasing Marvel action sequence since the airport scene in Captain America: What A Conveniently Placed Videotape.
Wait. Civil War was just in May, so it wasn’t that long ago. It’s still pretty well executed though, even though you know that because this is Marvel, Stephen Strange is never ever in any real danger.
- It wouldn’t be a Marvel movie if it didn’t have credit cookies involving a) another member of the MCU B) a teaser to another Marvel movie. In all honesty, we get more pleasure from the credit cookies than we do actually sitting through a Marvel movie #MarketingBrilliance
What Doesn’t Work With Doctor Strange
- Oscar Nominee Chiwitel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave) is reduced to the black sidekick role alongside Anthony Mackie and Don Cheadle. As Mordo, he’s not really given anything to do except gawp at Strange. You do hope the sequel gives him a more substantial role to play.
- Speaking of having nothing to do, Oscar Nominee Rachel McAdams (Spotlight) is given less to do playing “The Girl”. You could have cut her out of the movie and it wouldn’t have mattered a whit. You do hope the sequel gives her a more substantial role to play. But as Scarlett Johansson can attest, probably not.
- Speaking of having nothing to do, Hannibal’s Mads Mikkelsen is stuck playing yet another forgettable Marvel villain in long, long list of forgettable Marvel villains (Quick: who‘s the bad guy in Civil War? Answer: No one cares. Quick: Who‘s the bad guy in Ant-Man? Same answer applies). It’s through sheer presence and charisma that you remember he’s even in the movie considering how thinly written the part is.
Strange is a standard if aesthetically pleasing entry into the Marvel Universe. But if you actually need a review to see a Marvel movie, you’re an undecided voter or you have that Memento disease.
As basic as Strange is, it’s still light years better than what we’re getting from DC, as thinking about Batman V Superman or that limp Suicide Squad make you want to beat yourself in the head like Negan did Glenn.