[Blue Collar, Black Tie welcomes guest columnist Jessie Patterson]
Walking in to Doctor Strange, I didn’t know what to expect. All I really knew about him was from that one animated movie from 2007 and that he and Tony Stark are “awesome facial hair bros.”
That being said, Doctor Strange is a movie that, while falling short plot-wise, was incredible to watch. With astounding special effects and sheer, breathtaking color, I found that I could not look away.
Doctor Strange opens when the villain, played by Mads Mikkelsen, relieves a librarian of his head. Immediately after this, we see our first example of the special effects, in which Tilda Swinton’s character, The Ancient One, throws the movie’s villains and viewers into the Mirror Verse. The Mirror Verse is a place that mirrors the universe but cannot affect it and it is where sorcerers go to watch, observe, and fight when needed. Gravity shifts and buildings rotate and turn in impossible angles. Mads’ character, Kaecilius, and some of his cronies escape and we are then taken to Benedict Cumberbatch and the back story of Stephen Strange.
And here is where the movie started to lose me. Doctor Strange’s main theme is time and how it impacts us all. And for a movie that gave a lot of weight to the idea of time, there was too much explanation, too much backstory, and not enough plot.
Stephen Strange is an arrogant and egotistical individual with a photographic memory. And Benedict Cumberbatch pulls it off very well (Sherlock, anyone?) He brings to mind a pre-Iron Man Tony Stark, but this time in the medical field, or even a pre-Thor Thor. This may just be me, but the rhetoric of ‘haughty individual who has his eyes opened due to circumstances beyond his control and thus becomes a hero’ has gotten quite old. Give me more good guys like Captain America or Black Panther, whose sense of duty and responsibility lead them to becoming great people and heroes.
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, and Benedict Wong play Mordo, the Ancient One, and Wong respectively, and they are the ones who instruct and tutor Strange. Ever the academic, he studies everything he can get his hands on, and even some things he is not allowed to see. He is constantly questioning everything going on around him. But it is not until he is left on Mount Everest with no way to get back unless it is by his own hand and magic that he starts to resemble the Doctor Strange we know.
While Wong and Ejiofor’s performances played well off of and had great chemistry with Cumberbatch, I found Tilda Swinton’s performance to be lacking. The role of The Ancient One, typically an older Asian man, was instead white-washed. Swinton, known for being other-worldy in her looks and for playing both both men and women, lacked in what was needed for the role. I was also disturbed by the scene in which Strange is first introduced to the Ancient One. Another sorcerer, who very much looked like what the Ancient One should have been, was mistaken by Strange to be so. This felt like almost like a slap to the face to those of us who were upset by Swinton’s casting. In an industry where Asian roles are lacking, I am baffled as to why this one needed to be taken away.
After all of his training, Strange is thrown into fighting in the defense of the earth, which ignites an internal conflict. Marvel has always been good at showing heroes learning, failing, and not being perfect right away. It adds a level of humanity to the characters that we can all relate to, and Doctor Strange is no different. And it is here where we meet the greatest character in the entire movie: Strange’s Cape of Levitation. The cape has a personality of its own and constantly helps defend Strange as he takes on Kaecilius and the bigger bad of the movie.
The rest of the movie is where all the action and truly amazing special effects come in. In the mirror verse, cars are seen bending around roads and buildings are shifted and split in an effort to keep individuals from escaping. Strange, due to another artifact, is able to manipulate time and space and to say any more would be to spoil the ending. Which, in fact, was incredibly well-done and one of my favorite Marvel movie endings to date.
When watching a Marvel movie, I tend to have two ratings: fun factor and quality. And lately, I feel their movies have been lacking in quality. For Marvel’s Doctor Strange, I’d give it a 9 fun rating. It had quips and one-liners, a scene-stealing Cape of Levitation, and breath-taking special effects. But for the quality, I’d give it a 5 or 6. The movie was slow and spent more time on back story than it did on the conflict and what one would assume is the actual plot of the story.
In the end I truly did enjoy it, and will add it to my collection, but I can’t wait for the day when Marvel starts to include the rest of the world in their story-telling. I have a feeling that when Marvel sheds the inaccurate assumptions they have of their fanbase and starts to produce the movies we all want to see (such as the upcoming Black Panther and Captain Marvel movies), the quality of the content they produce will rise, and so will their image.
And if you do go see Doctor Strange, see it in IMAX 3D. It is absolutely mind-blowing and beautiful.