Doctor Strange is my favorite Marvel character. He’s the only one I’ve actually read some of the comics for. Otherwise my reading habits have been strictly DC and Other Stuff. So between that and my fondness for The Cumberbatch I was really looking forward to this one. Did I like it or not? I did like it…but. How about this, I wanted to like it more than I did but I still liked it.
Most of all I like the parts that reminded me of the Doctor Strange comic “The Oath.” I like the wackiness. I like the fusion of the real world, the Marvel world, and this world of magic that we enter with Stephen Strange. I hoped for more gimmicky magic than we got. For example, in the post-credits scene, Doctor Strange meets Thor and offers him tea. Thor says he’s not much of tea guy so Strange transforms his tea into a refilling beer. Other than that the magic was a lot of portals and magic runes in the air. Shields and edged weapons instead of “spells.”
The much lauded specials effects really didn’t do much for me. Or rather, the folding cities didn’t. I felt bored during those scenes. Like I didn’t understand the rules or what was at stake. The folding cities are arenas for chase scenes and fights. Call me jaded or overindulged on CGI. But it amounts to finding those scenes uninteresting.
For the rest of the movie magic, The Cloak of Levitation was a great prop. It added some well timed comic relief and it was a lot of fun in the style of a scene stealing character (for example, think of Quicksilver in Days of Future Past). One other prominent prop was the “Sling Ring,” a magic item that permits the wearer to create portals. It struck me as odd that this pivotal magic item kept falling off people’s hands. Also I felt the more learned characters should call it something other than a Sling Ring. Like the Ancient One should call it Krak’Thal’s Gauntlet or something but the mortal crowd calls it the Sling Ring.
Speaking of the Ancient One, the supporting cast is hit and miss in this movie. I loved Benedict Wong and I hope he gets a bigger part in the sequel. Chiwetel Ejiofor is always great but Mordo is an odd character. The last post-credits scene shows that Mordo has gone crazy evil and resolves to steal the power of Earth’s magic users to prevent them from using it at all. Mads Mikkelsen is Mr. Unpronounceable, our villain, a former student of the Ancient One who seeks to use the Dark Arts to bring Voldemort…I mean Dormammu, into the world to gain immortality and unite with his dead loved ones. They seemed to put a lot of effort into trying to give the villain a sound and relatable argument. It amounts to saying that life is pointless and the Ancient One is a hypocrite because she uses the Forbidden-To-All Dark Magic of the Dark Dimension to prolong her own life while forbidding others to do so. This hypocrisy is also what drives Mordo away at the end of the movie. Your mileage may very on if that’s sound and relatable.
I’ve put it off long enough, eventually you have to talk about Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, The Sorcerer Supreme who teaches Stephen Strange the mystical arts. Better writers than me have weighed in on this question, “Was casting a white woman in the role of a traditionally Tibetan or Asian person racist.” I can’t tell you. If you find it racist, if not, that’s your opinion and I doubt anything I could say would change your mind either way. I can see why the Director thought this was a good idea. My interpretation of the director’s opinion:
“This character from the 1960s is a racist caricature, the Asian mystic stereotype is best left in the trash heap with WWII propaganda superheroes spouting anti-Japanese hate speech in an effort to sell war bonds. Instead we will hire a white androgynous woman.”
Whether that satisfies you or leaves you wanting to write essays, I just thought she was bad. I thought Tilda Swinton was completely miscast. She was distracting and she took me out of the movie every time she came onscreen in this setting. Moving the setting to Nepal because Tibet is too political? That didn’t bother me. But I couldn’t get into Tilda Swinton in this role in this movie. Was that because she’s white? I’m not sure. But I did not like her contribution to this movie.
There are the little things I liked.
In the post credits scene, Thor tells Doctor Strange he and Loki are looking for Odin. So now Magic Sherlock and Thor are looking for Hannibal after throwing Hannibal in a magic portal.
I would have played up the fact that Doctor Strange, called out by other characters as an insufferable arrogant prick, defeated the ancient space god abomination by annoying it until it left. Magic Space God, when faced with an eternity with Dr. Stephen Strange, chose to leave Earth forever.
The rest of my complaints are nitpicking.
How long was Strange at Nepal Hogwarts? It should have been years, it felt like months. I would’ve made it clear that years were passing.
Where did Strange crash his car in this movie? It looked like cliffs and I don’t think there’s a road like that so close to Manhattan.
My wife called this one out, it seemed inconsistent to her when Doctor Strange could use the Cloak to fly. He seemed to fall a lot in the bending city and elsewhere. As a D&D player, I did not have an issue with a magic item that only has so many charges per hour but your mileage may vary.
And lastly, I groaned at the Eye of Agamotto being identified as an Infinity Stone. Even if it’s in keeping with the comics (which I don’t know) I’m already bored of this infinity stones plot years before Avengers 3. The Avengers, Ultron, Thor 2, Guardians of the Galaxy all revolved around the stones more directly. In Strange the Stone was an afterthought, jammed in there. Doesn’t Doctor Strange need that stone to do his stuff? Shit’s going to be fucked when Thanos steals that thing. He won’t be able to do his time travel schtick to win again.
All in all, I still liked it. In the MCU I struggled on where to put it. Thor remains my favorite of the Marvel Movies. I decided I liked this one more than Civil War. Civil War looked at least $100 million more expensive than this movie but Civil War also had bigger plot holes. I’m looking forward to more stories with these characters while wondering if we’ve gotten all the mileage we can out of the original team of Avengers.