Review: Doctor Strange

Benedict Cumberbatch and Chiwetel Ejiofor in Doctor Strange

My reaction to Doctor Strange was mixed. It looked good in the previews, otherwise I wouldn’t have forked over enough money to pay for a whole month of Amazon Prime to go see it. I now know the origin story for Dr. Stephen Strange, which will be helpful in understanding future Marvel productions, so there’s that.

Doctor Strange was a technical masterpiece. We sat through all the credits to see the last bit that came after they had all played. There must have been 5 minutes of names of technical production people. It felt endless. The special effects were spectacular. Visually it amazed.

The story itself – minus special effects – was not that interesting. I must be watching too much television. I wanted a human tale like Jessica Jones or Luke Cage. While Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) had human flaws mixed in with his enormous, entitled ego, I never warmed up to him.

Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), Strange’s fellow doctor and sort-of girlfriend was a paper doll. However, the cloak that somehow felt it belonged on Strange’s shoulders was almost a character on its own and completely awesome. Welcome to the world of male superheroes, where cloaks are more interesting than women.

Strange was in a car wreck at the start of the film. His hands were damaged. Jonathan Pangborn (Benjamin Bratt) was the character who interested Stephen Strange in going to Nepal for a cure to his shaking hands, which is not a good look for a surgeon.

When Doctor Strange reached Nepal, where his transformation took place, he met The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Wong (Benedict Wong) who conducted the “wax on, wax off” part of his transformation. Many of the metaphysical lessons Strange should have learned were abbreviated because he read everything in the library (even the books he wasn’t allowed to read) and became a master almost on his own. Yeah, he’s that brilliant.

Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) is the chief antagonist. He’s the tool of the really big bad evil power in the universe. Once Strange learned how to manipulate time, he challenged the really big bad evil power with a battle that would have kept him occupied forever, like Sisyphus. Voilà! They made a deal, which freed up Doctor Strange to fight evil in other ways. But it also freed up the really big bad evil power to create evil in other ways. So the story can continue, don’t you see?

Everyone in the film is a fine actor. They all did fine work with their material. I know there is a lot of unhappiness over the whitewashed casting of Tilda Swinton in a role that should have gone to an Asian. Not being a reader of the comic books who knew the story before going to the movie, I didn’t look at her thinking, “Damn, miscast.” However, I support the efforts of Asian Americans in Hollywood to get proper representation in films, especially blockbuster moneymakers that will be seen all over the world like Doctor Strange.

There’s no way to see this film and not enjoy the special effects. It’s an enjoyable film. If you are a fan of characters in the Marvel universe, you should see it.

I think I’m going to go back to looking for small films about women from women directors.

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