2016, Movies

Doctor Strange (2016, Scott Derrickson)

Dr. Strange is yet another one of these moderately entertaining Marvel films with a great cast and not so great a plot, with the same machinations and the same balance of humour and violence. Deja vu all over again.

I guess it’s been a little while since we’ve seen an origin story – well, not exactly as there was Deadpool and the first Guardians, both of which had plenty of origin shit – and so that at least is a bit of a refreshment from the Avengers Captain America world which hasn’t seen too much of that in a while. But just because it’s been a little while doesn’t mean Dr. Strange breaks with the origin formula in any kind of original way; Deadpool it’s not. If anything it’s a little like the Batman Begins of the Marvel universe – much less self-serious but also much less compelling.

Like just about every Marvel movie I’ve seen outside of a couple of the X-Men films, Dr. Strange suffers from the same problem that afflicts all of these: it at once tries to balance end-of-the-world (end of the dimension?) stakes with no stakes. Our hero has to stop the world from being destroyed – never anything less than the planet, and often, as in this case, much more than that – while we know in our hearts that he will survive. So the film tries and fails to walk the same tightrope that the Avengers / Captain America films regularly fail to walk: they want us to care about these heroes saving the planet yet again while we know not only will they succeed but few to any of them will actually suffer. These movies exist in the world where the game is rigged; there are no real consequences for these super heroes, in spite of their human flaws. They have, in essence, all become Superman. That’s boring. And Dr. Strange is no different, even if I happen to like Cumberbatch in the role (it’s not too far from Sherlock). Strange goes from novice to world-saving god so quickly that we the audience are left wondering why we should care. And then, of course, he comes up against this incomprehensible powerful force, which is given human form for some reason, and you know what happens.

On a side note: the film contains the most direct ant-science rant I think I have ever seen in a comic book film. It is so pointed and so condescending that it is alarming. It is particularly alarming given the political climate we live in, where a bunch of people have become convinced that ideas do indeed create reality, to the detriment of the rest of us. I know this is just a comic book film but fiction is made in context. I can’t help but think the tone of the vitriol is irresponsible even if it is indeed uttered by some who can bend reality. Did it have to be so vehement? (I just worry that kids will listen to the lines and take them seriously. This belief is one of the great fallacies of our species.)

5/10 because I did laugh at a few of the lines and because it is pretty to look at, as these things go.

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