#Marvel's Dr. Strange is the latest #MCU film to hit our screens, the second of Phase Three, and fourteenth MCU Film overall. By now, we're all used to Marvel's Formula. Action, a little humour, a #StanLee cameo and a post-credits scene, are all things we have come to expect from the MCU. With the release of #GuardiansOfTheGalaxy, Marvel expanded their Cinematic universe beyond #Asgard and #Thor's #NineRealms, and with the release of Dr. Strange this year, has now opened up the MCU door to other dimensions.
With that of course, Dr. Strange as a movie, carries quite a bit of responsibility, and as the only hero in his story, he shoulders the need to open up the MCU, almost by himself, despite a wealth of supporting characters.
Aesthetics - How Does The Movie Live Up To Expectations Visually?
It should really come as no surprise that Marvel's Dr. Strange is a stunningly beautiful, sometimes dizzying, wonderful culmination of multiple dimensions and realities. The CGI and Visual Effects in this film are aesthetically pleasing to say the least, and from the get go, provides a beautiful and colourful back-drop to a reality-bending narrative.
The action sequences are artfully shot. The camera makes wonderful use of moving shots throughout these scenes, so that as reality is being bent and things are moving and changing quickly on screen, the camera is too. This gives the film that wonderfully dizzying effect, that really never ceases to remind you of the depth of this film, and just how much it widens the world of the MCU.
The costumes are gorgeous, and whilst we get a few cliched hooded figures, they soon lose this aesthetic to focus more on the detailing of individual pieces. When Dr. Strange's costume is complete and you first see him in the entire get-up, its a wholly spectacular moment, that can't help but invoke excitement in you. He rises in the most #badass way possible, from what was a pretty bad fall to fully grace the entirety of the screen in all his splendour. And believe me it is magnificent!
The Narrative - Is The Plot Strong Enough For The Concept? Or Does It Fall Flat?
The main concept for Dr. Strange is an #OriginStory to a character whom we know is due to meet up with #TheAvengers, and help kick a hell of a lot of #MadTitan ass in future movies. Not only does Dr. Strange introduce new characters into the MCU, it also introduces the fifth and final #InfinityStone - something we know is extremely important.
Whilst #BenedictCumberbatch does a undeniably brilliant job as the arrogant, selfish and cocky Dr. Strange, it does feel at times as though his portrayal of the character, is merely an Americanised version of the #Sherlock he plays for the #BBC series. Dr. Strange's insufferable, know-it-all attitude, coupled with Cumberbatch's easy delivery of Strange's incredibly sardonic and sarcastic lines, leaves us with a character who we don't even initially like.
He's rude, arrogant, cocky and largely unappreciative of the efforts of love interest Christine played by #RachelMcAdams. Of course, Strange being the main character his development goes full scale, so although at the beginning we may not like him, by the middle, we find ourselves rooting for this arrogant insufferable know-it-all. In much the same way as we have come to root for #RobertDowneyJr's arrogant and pretentious #TonyStark (#IronMan).
Unfortunately, this character development and self-realisation isn't afforded to any of Dr. Strange's supporting cast. #ChiwetelEjifor's #Mordo is a character so underdeveloped, even he seems complacent for the movie to remain in his "place", never seeking to be anything more than the sidekick that he so obviously is. Of course, he blindly believes in #TheAncientOne, which also adds to his annoying status of being completely dispensable. This is extremely frustrating to see on an actor of Ejifor's calibre.
Rachel McAdam's character, although well played by the actress and completely likeable, is largely boring and unmemorable. She finds herself completely out of place in the reality-bending world Dr. Strange as a movie opens up, so although we're not bombarded with her general boring-ness (like we are with say #LoisLane in the #DCCU #Snyderverse), a little still feels incredibly underwhelming.
#MadsMikkelson's #Kaecilius is a character with untapped potential. Whilst his skill is showcased, it is never actually highlighted. As a #villain, the movie fails to show what real motivation he has behind his actions, and although Mikkelson does an absolutely brilliant job with the character, it feels as though he were being held back, unable to tap into the development and growth that Cumberbatch's Strange did.
White-Washing Controversy - We Need To Talk About Tilda Swinton.
#TildaSwinton's The Ancient One however, hits me as the most confusing of them all. We're likely all aware of the controversy surrounding the #WhiteWashing of The Ancient One from an Asian Man, to a White English Woman in the form of Tilda Swinton. The movie - in a moment of pure cockiness and nonchalance to the rigours of White-Washing - believes itself to have hilariously addressed this when Dr. Strange mistakes an older Asian Man for The Ancient One, and Tilda Swinton as...I guess, the tea lady?
Had her performance in the movie been in any way noteworthy, that moment may have been humourous. Given the fact that Tilda Swinton's Ancient One lacks character, personality and a basic storyline however, it wasn't. The excuse given for the casting of Swinton in the role of a historically Asian Man, was that the MCU Ancient One differs from the comics, and instead has Celtic origins.
The excuse - also uttered in the movie by Ejifor's Mordo to Dr. Strange - of The Ancient One being Celtic and not Asian, seems more like an attempt to justify the wrongful casting of a white woman in this role, than anything else. We never see her Celtic origins. We never hear of them. She never speaks of them. With the exception of that one instance in which Mordo tells Dr. Strange, we also never hear of it again. She claims to be centuries old, harvesting magic from the #DarkDimension to remain in existence, yet not only do we never see her do this (or anything of actual substance), we also never get an explanation for why she does this. In truth, most of her character remains a mystery. And not in a good way. She does nothing to aid in our belief that she is indeed Ancient, and so as the audience, it's actually hard to believe that she is, and not just some white woman in a temple serving really good tea.
She has no growth or development over time, indeed she forms no bonds with any of the main characters, nor does she show any ounce of personality whatsoever. She exists merely as a "thing" within the movie - a ploy, via which Dr. Strange can become Dr. Strange. She is more of an inanimate object in the narrative than anything else.
Her time on screen is largely a waste and considering we know nothing about her, her motivations, her past life etc, it is incredibly hard to muster up any sort of emotion other than "thank f*ck" when her character eventually (thankfully) bites it and dies.
Overall, Swinton does a mediocre job of playing a poorly written, white-washed character who lacks substance, motivation and basic character traits. Things we really don't expect to be problems at this stage in the MCU.
Dr. Strange is a largely enjoyable movie, and a nice addition to the MCU. However, whilst it serves its purpose at introcuding its audience to different dimensions, the fifth of the #infinitystones and widening the world of the MCU, it does so only by the skin of its teeth. Poorly conceptualised, and underdeveloped villains and supporting characters, leave me thinking that this film very heavily relies on the star power and acting prowess of its leading man, #BenedictCumberbatch. Indeed, without him and his portrayal of #TheSorcererSupreme, the only other memorable character would be #MadsMikkelson's Kaecilius, and almost all of that memorability is due to Mikkelson's own acting prowess, and most certainly not how his character was written.
In short, Cumberbatch largely holds this film up with the additional support of Mikkelson and of course the visually stunning effects we expected of this movie. Without those details, it's likely this movie would not have been as enjoyable as it was.