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Doctor Strange (2016)

Surrender, Steven !

For a Marvel joint, Doctor Strange is remarquably squeamish about tampering with the space-time continuum and the multiverse, even though the purpose of its script – and the function of its CGI – are precisely just that. Let’s just say that the Ancient One’s (SWINTON!, one of the two reasons to watch the film) terse warning that that shouldn’t be done comes a little late; I don’t know who’s planning the expansion of the Marvel Extended Universe but that particular Big Bang is a bit messy.

Three quarters ludicrous exposition and one quarter the expedited resolution of a dimensional clash threatening the very existence of the world, Doctor Strange is nevertheless quite enjoyable. Of course, the arc is the same as usual, a powerful character reduced to pulp by trauma only to become a god-like figure having to chose his of the Force, training scenes, time travel, cities folding on themselves, more training scenes, a mirror dimension, a cape, nefarious instoppable villains defeated by fisticuffs, and yet more training scenes. As usual, rooms full of priceless relics in glass boxes have been built for the express purpose to be shattered in said fisticuffs, the vilains of the piece takes order from un uber-vilain from outer space and time (Dormammu is coming and he’s ANGRY!). Also, one specific aspect of the movie kinda swallow all others, this time the polemic about casting Tilda Swinton as an originally Asian character. Which is, by the way, the wisest decision made here: just watch her graciously ackowledge that yes, this is good tea, and succumb to her sublime presence; she actually makes for a credible mentor/antagonist, as was the case in Constantine.

Doctor Strange‘s other saving grace is great production design (apart from this Dormammu guy, who looks like the writers described it as “generic evil CGI entity). Sets and costumes look great – and expensive, magic is not too shabby either. Casting is prestige Hollywood all over. Oh, right, casting, so easily outshone by Miss Swinton that it’s like she’s actually able to manipulate screen time.

Benedict Cumberbatch keeps on auditioning for the Bond role, driving a sports car over the speed limit in a tuxedo, which owns him the stupidest accident ot recent memory (a neuro-surgeon checking CAT-scans while driving at night, really?) and equipped with a rotating display for his collection of super expensive wrist watches. Forget about his smug attitude and God complex, the rotating wristwatch display says all about what a self-imbued, callous moron Steven Strange is: definitely, the new James Bond will be a throwback to the Roger Moore era. His love interest is played by Rachael McAdams, which has the virtue of answering the question what she has done lately, not that it was a very interesting one. Madds Mikkelsen plays Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner with his customary inexpressiveness, with the help of “Strong Zealot”, “Tall Zealot”, “Blonde Zealot” (one can’t help loving that one) and lots of glitter. Chiwetel Ejiofor looks gloomy about having to feature in the sequel, and Benedict Wong plays Wong, because the writers couldn’t come up with a better Chinese name.

The final showdown is rather good for once; the vilains stop their annoying antics and get their comeuppance like nothing had happened. Comedy scenes rub shoulders incomfortably with lines like “Who are you in this vast multiverse, Mr Strange?”, an instant contender for 2016’s worst dialogue. The nature of reality is once more questioned, only to be swiftly put aside as a perfunctory plot point. After the movie ends, all sorts of questions remain unanswered, the least of which not being how The Ancient One built three sanctums (Suspiria, anyone?) in New York, London and Hong Kong,& centuries before these cities even exist. All in all though, a decent entry in the Marvel canon.

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