Saturday, 5 November 2016

Doctor Strange

I know that this review is a little late, but get excited kids, its finally here. The film that caused so much controversy in its decision to cast Bananapops Cucumberpatch (we all know who I’m talking about) as the title character that many fans revolted against it before even seeing a trailer. Before we pull at that thread and this review unravels completely into a lesson about whitewashing, let’s talk about the film as a whole. To be honest, I was actually really excited for this film after seeing the trailer. The special effects, the magic, the…oh who am I kidding, I’m really only seeing this because I’ve been harbouring an all consuming love for Mads Mikkelson ever since that first season of Hannibal. Anyway, let’s move on.

Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a young neurosurgeon with a penchant for pushing the boundaries within his work, has been living a life of constant success: he’s recognised as one of the best in his field, is well respected, and although he has a reputation for being a bit of an ass, he is skilled enough to save lives at the drop of a hat. He has just one small problem: his people skills. Steven Strange’s world revolves around himself and his work, and nothing more. However, his entire life is shattered (literally) when he is gravely injured during a car accident, leaving his hands with severe nerve damage and being faced with the possibility that he may never practice medicine again. Unable to cope with merely accepting his fate, Steven searches the world for a cure. But what he discovers in a remote corner of Kathmandu is the world of the Ancient One and her teachings, a practice that reaches far beyond his imagination could ever fathom. Facing a challenge that threatens the earth and beyond, he will have to overcome more than his cocky personality to reach his true potential and prove his worth.

The positives: I know that I’ve said this about a few films this year, but Doctor Strange is a really good time. Tilda Swinton’s wise and surprisingly funny Ancient One balances Strange’s harsher personality well, with the supporting cast of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelson, Benedict Wong and Rachel McAdams providing the perfect foils for Strange’s in a variety of ways. These actors are talented and clearly had a great rapport off screen that was evident in the film. The comedy was timed well and the jokes landed (easily noted by the audience in the screening I went to) but above all the visuals were stunning. Think Inception meets Iron Man meets Harry Potter, the different universes and settings this film gives its audience is an eyeful that really helps to immerse us into the realm of the Masters. I felt that my money was well spent on that alone. This film shows how you can balance darker themes of loss and loneliness with humour and dignity (take note DC), and reminds us that even at our lowest there is always something that makes life worthwhile.

The negatives: I’ll be honest here, if you’re not a fan of Tony Stark or his character arc or progression, you’re not going to like Stephen Strange as this story is surprisingly similar. I also felt that Mads Mikkelson’s character, the villain Kaecilius (Kai-sill-ee-us), wasn’t used enough and could’ve had more screentime (I’m not being biased I swear) in order to help explain his backstory which is mostly done through other characters. Also, I felt that the pacing was a little off in this film: not nearly as bad as the pacing in Suicide Squad, but this film tended to have the same vibe in that it was trying to pack a lot of information into one relatively short film, meaning that we were shunted through a vast amount of story and locations very quickly without enough time to properly understand what we were seeing. But now for the cherry:

Remember how I mentioned we were setting aside the whole whitewashing thing at the beginning of this review? Well its time to bring that chestnut back. Yes, the film as a whole was good and enjoyable. Yes, the acting was also great and the characters were entertaining and fit the film well. But fans of the character had a right to be angry, and just because the film was good, that doesn’t negate the importance of ‘why’ they were and still are angry. To be completely honest, as a South American person, I can’t blame them. Whitewashing is still a problem today and is seen time and time again in Hollywood, from The Last Airbender (2010) to the shock that was the live action Mulan’s first leaked scriptnotes just a few weeks ago. To act like its not insulting to the characters and their creators would be doing those characters a disservice. I’m not saying we all have to openly hate this film. I understand that for some people, seeing their favourite character/s of Stephen Strange and The Ancient One brought to life on the big screen is a huge deal. But what I am saying is that it would be wrong to just ignore the facts. In today’s society where voices speaking out against oppression and racial prejudice are louder than ever? Come on Marvel. If you can make the entire cast of the upcoming Black Panther movie completely African American as per the comics, you could’ve taken the time to put the same thought and planning into Doctor Strange and maybe saved a lot of fans’ disappointment.

In the end, Doctor Strange is a fun and entertaining movie that people of all ages are gonna love. Its got comedy, action and great characters to boot, and it’ll be fun to watch this character saddle up alongside our other favourite superheroes in the upcoming Infinity War with Thanos (which gets closer by the movie). Also, the end credits scene will be a hit with Loki fans everywhere (is that too much of a spoiler? Oops). All in all, whether you’re seeing it in the movies or illegally downloading a copy, you’re in for a good time.

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