Friday, November 4, 2016

Doctor Strange

First a warning: There maybe be some mild spoilers for the latest installment in the "Marvel Cinematic Universe" in what follows.

I have to admit, that as excited I was that there was going to be a Doctor Strange movie when it was first announced, I have not had much enthusiasm passed on the teasers and early trailers. Some of the that might have been me just tiring of Marvel's house style, but for whatever reason, I was underwhelmed.

The actual film wound up being better than I had expected. The design aesthetic of Marvel's films when it comes to the really fantastic non-superhero elements (Asgard in particular, but also some parts of Guardians of the Galaxy) has always left me cold. Also, the relentless desire to de-mystify or over-rationalize all the magical elements of the Marvel Universe works passably with some things (like the Darkhold on Agents of SHIELD) but hollowed out the grandeur of Kirby's sci-fi Norse mythology from Thor.

Happily, Doctor Strange is not particularly de-mystified. (The Ancient One offers an explanation of magic similar to one of the options Kenneth Hite provided Rough Magicks.) In fact, they really play up the (unintended presumably) psychedelia of the Ditko-era stories, though they convert it to a more filmic approach. There are resonances with both 2001 and Afronosky's The Fountain.

How the magic is employed winds up being a bit like a combination of The Matrix, Inception, and previous superhero films. I like how they moved away from strictly super-powers, and you could see how they were reaching for Ditko and perhaps Starlin with some of it. The spells as mostly sputtering sparks drawn in the air didn't quite suit me, though I don't have a ready alternative in mind. It all worked passably.

The plot is a means to an end. The similarities to Inception and The Matrix at times made its mere adequacy more evident, but when you're a vehicle for elaboration of a shared universe, you don't have to shoulder so much weight yourself, I suppose. All the cast does a pretty good job with what they are given. Tilda Swinton, despite expressly being "Celtic," does the movements, stances, and cryptic comments of the "Asian Master" almost as much as Joel Grey in Remo Williams without the obivous yellowface, so I'm not sure not casting an non-Asian actor as the Ancient One really allowed us to avert all those stereotypes. Still, I liked her protrayal.

The Marvel fan in me exulted to see the Dread Dormammu (Though I was underwhelmed by his dread "we didn't think about this very much" CGI-ness. He was of the ilk of Parallax in the Green Lantern film or "The Absorbing Man" in Ang Lee's Hulk). Further fannishness: Instead of having Mikkelsen's baddie be named for a mook that worked for Baron Mordo in the comic, why not have him be Kaluu, the Ancient One's rival?


Konsumterra said...

id like them to do the 80s story where steven is tainted and kaluu teaches him evil magic

Trey said...

That would be a great story for them to do.

DeusNihl said...

I loved that story arc ;)