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Movie Review: Dr. Strange

Friday, November 11, 2016 - 06:00

I should have known better. I mean, I know that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that abusive partner who always comes back promising that this time it will be better. And you hold out. You promise yourself not to get taken again. But you think, maybe it will be different this time. You think, this is a different type of story. Dr. Strange wasn't one of those punch-your-way-out superheros. He was intellectual. Philosophical. He used magic, not his fists. And think of the effects! It'll be different this time. (And, I confess, I'm not entirely immune to the fey, cerebral attractions of Benedict Cumberbatch.)

And I got suckered in one more time.

Whatever a Dr. Strange movie could have been, it got turned into a cookie-cutter punch-em-up extended fight scene. The magic effects are cool, to be sure. And I suppose I should give them props for giving the viewer a serious "reality turned inside out" experience that could only be hinted at on the page of a comic. If I had attempted to watch it in 3D, I'm quite certain I would have lost my cookies. It was visually and conceptually stunning but the relentless assault on my equilibrium was just...look, enough already. It isn't fun any more.

The story line is a combination of stock origin story--brilliant, arrogant Entitled White Guy suffers a take-down due to his own idiocy and drives every one around him crazy with his self-pity and refusal to accept the consequences of his own actions, until he takes himself off to the ends of the earth to demand help from Magical Oriental Mystics--plus the standard plot "Chosen One becomes instantly and amazingly better at this than everyone else who's been working hard for a long time and turns out to be the only person who can Save The World."

You know, the more I think about it, the more I dislike this movie.

Minuses: Immense amounts of gratuitous physical violence. Visual effects designed to take you past vertigo and out the other side. Graphic medical squickiness. (In fact, content warning for that.) Gratuitous Orientalism. Complete and utter failure of the Bechdel-Wallace Test. I think there are only two female speaking parts in the whole movie: the Long-Suffering Loyal Girlfriend Who Gets Shat On By Self-Pitying Whiny Guy But Jumps When He Snaps His Fingers For Help and the Tilda Swinton role that wasn't female in the original comic: Mystical Teacher. (Except instead of Mystical Oriental Teacher, she gets to be Mystical Celtic Teacher. Yes, they said the C word.) There is no chance for the two female characters to have a conversation not about Whiny Guy because they never in fact talk to each other at all. Oh, a good smattering of the redshirt characters on both sides are female, so that's something. But none of the named, speaking characters who interact with Whiny Guy.

Pluses: cloak? Nice magic effects? Props to David J. Peterson as linguistics consultant so the script didn't include anything truly silly with regard to ancient manuscripts and mysic spells. (OK, I'm biased. Personal connection.) I'd give a plus for making The Ancient One female except for the whole whitewashing aspect which kind of zeros it out.

Going back to my I'm-So-Over-Marvel cave.