“Doctor Strange”

“Doctor Strange”
Directed by Scott Derrickson

untitled-3I went in to “Doctor Strange” utterly ignorant of this Marvel character’s history. And, usually, that’s not a problem with Marvel films, because, unlike DC Comic films, Marvel films are filled with an underlying sense of irony…an irreverence which acts as an anchor for the world-wide-destruction and visual-craziness that is part and parcel of Marvel plots.

Alas, “Doctor Strange” (and director, Scott Derrickson) forgot to build on such a foundation. There is humor, but it is mostly situational. And while the film is SENSATIONAL to look at (in fact, other than “Gravity”, I can think of no other film that is more deserving of the IMAX-3D treatment), has a relatively creepy bad guy (Mads Mikkelson with a laughable makeup job), and moves at a really fast pace, when it ends you are left with a shrug…maybe even a meh. And given the obvious technical advances created specifically for this film, and its all-star cast…that’s a shame.

Benebatch Cumberdict is, I believe, WAY too serious to pull off the humor. Not that the character development inherent in the script gives him much choice or freedom. He plays a pretty unlike-able one-percenter neuro-surgeon. They try like hell to give him some depth so we’ll root for him, but unlike “Sherlock”, which utilizes Martin Freeman to accomplish this goal, he’s pretty much on his own here. Tilda Swinton is fantastic in a truly thankless Marvel iconoclastic role (originally meant for an Asian man). I thought it was fantastic (if anti-diverse) casting. She’s both Bowie-esque and utterly earnest. Chiwetel Ejiofor is also terribly under-utilized…my guess being his character is merely being introduced future Marvel Universe films. And then there’s one of the greatest living screen actors of our generation, Mads Mikkelson. It’s certainly not a role he’ll be remembered for, but if you’ve seen him in “The Hunt”, “The Salvation” or even ‘Hannibal’, you know he is impossible to look away from.

And not for nothing – some day the all important third act god-like enemy WON’T resemble “MCP” from the original “Tron”. But in this film, when it made its appearance…even as I was thinking it…three people around me said “it’s the MCP from Tron!” Happens more often than it should.

Props to Michael Giacchino, whose score is better and more thoughtful than Marvel usually goes for. Granted, there are the usual pulsating (and, in IMAX, ear-splitting) fight accompaniments. But in those few moments of discovery, humanity and pain, he has crafted beautiful music (if, once again, a little “Interstellar”-esque).

I don’t know…I think it should be experienced, because it truly is, visually, a giant step forward from  “Inception”. But maybe it would have helped if “Doctor Strange” were a cardiologist instead of a neurosurgeon. A little less logic and a little more heart goes a long way…but, Marvel…you knew that already…

Written on 11/10/2016

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