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Doctor Strange (2016)

A review by Nalini Haynes

Doctor Strange is another comic book superhero movie from Marvel so it’s from the most popular comic book–movie stable with a tried-and-true formula.

In this iteration, Benedict Cumberbatch is Doctor Strange and Tilda Swinton is his mentor in Katmandu, once he’s had his car accident (totally his fault) and couldn’t be healed.

As the White Savior, Strange is the most gifted adept at the school for magical warrior-types.

After the events of the last 24 hours I’m not really in the mood to write a review… but I’ll push on.

Suffice to say that both Cucumber-buns and Swinton were good in their roles but imagine Daniel Dae Kim and George Takei in those respective roles. How much cooler would the movie have been? And how much more popular would the subtitled and/or dubbed version have been in the enormous Asian market? Unfortunately, we’re going to see a lot more whitewashing of Hollywood and, indeed, the US in the next several years so I feel that Marvel missed its window of opportunity.

On the up side, Doctor Strange experiences an acquired disability, has to learn to live with it and does not get healed. THIS IS PROGRESS. He experiences grief, rage, and has to learn to move on with his life. However, as a formerly successful surgeon and a white man, he doesn’t experience discrimination for being disabled, his experience of disability is purely an internal journey.

My biggest gripe with the story was the reliance on Inception-style SFX for no apparent reason and without logical consequences. Over and over. It seemed like story-filler.

I’m pretty sure Doctor Strange failed the Bechdel Test too: it’s all about the white MAN saving the world even though his mentor was a woman. It was nice that Strange didn’t have any issues with learning from a woman, he was straight-out ornery towards everyone.

Doctor Strange was the only character attempting to be 3 dimensional. Everyone else was so 2-dimensional that if they turned sideways they’d disappear. However, a cast of science fiction and fantasy stars with a splattering of pop culture references serves to retain viewers’ engagement.

The elements of humor were well done although I thought there could have been more. These types of movies really can’t afford to take themselves seriously. The two scenes in the credits inspire me to watch the coming movies too.

Overall, Doctor Strange is an enjoyable comic book superhero movie with little depth but lots of pretty SFX. It’s racist, tropey and predictable but fun within the constraints of its genre.

Expect less diversity and more overt sexism in future movies.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Director: Scott Derrickson
Writers: Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson, C Robert Cargill, Steve Ditko
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams

Doctor Strange

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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