Doctor Strange

SPOILER REVIEW: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

WARNING! This is my spoiler-filled review of Infinity War, if you haven’t seen the film or just generally don’t want any spoilers my spoiler-free review is here.

Now I don’t think this will be in any particular order and I definitely won’t manage to talk about everything, these are the things that stuck with me the most that I wanted to talk about.  (more…)

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REVIEW: Doctor Strange (2016)

After an accident that permanently damages his hands, neurosurgeon Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) travels the world in search of healing. He’s drawn into the world of the mystic arts and is taught the sorcery skills and the path to enlightenment by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) to protect the world.

Stephen Strange is a brilliant surgeon but an incredibly arrogant and rude man. His relationship with fellow doctor, Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), is strained due to his superiority and it only get worse as he refuses to accept that his career as a leading neurosurgeon is over. Strange isn’t a likeable character and while he does go on a journey and changes, he’s still not a particularly pleasant guy.

Doctor Strange is an origin story, and an origin story that is very similar to that of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in Iron Man. However, Cumberbatch lacks the humour and charisma of Downey Jr, which means that Strange feels like a very bland hero. Humour and Cumberbatch don’t really work together, in fact the only moments of humour that really land in Doctor Strange are when McAdam’s Christine is performing surgery while a magical battle is happening around her.

The bad guy in Doctor Strange is Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), a sorcerer who’s got dark plans. He seems like an interesting antagonist, especially when he has a dialogue with Strange, but unfortunately you don’t get to see him that much – he’s there for a fight scene and then disappears until the next one.

Doctor Strange has some incredible visuals. While there’s a fair bit of exposition to introduce the concept of multiple dimensions and the astral plane to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, when you get to see characters interact with and move between these dimensions, it’s stunning. Characters can bend reality to their will, leading to mind-bending visuals. It’s like a city is inside a kaleidoscope, and as the city folds into itself, characters are fighting with magic while contending with the constantly moving environment.

The performances are generally decent but not great unlike the spectacular visuals – but a great-looking film doesn’t make a great film. There are moments of wonder and excitement in Doctor Strange, but otherwise it’s not that memorable. 2/5.

Benedict Cumberbatch for Doctor Strange? Not for me thanks

I shall start this by saying I’m a Marvel fan. From the animated X-Men cartoon in the 1990‘s to the films and the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I’m now branching out into the comic books. Also my two dissertations have been on comic book movies and one was specifically all about Marvel and how it became an independent film studio to a subsidiary of Disney. So besides from being a fan, I also have at least a vague knowledge of how Hollywood studios work and how Marvel has worked for the past decade.

So now onto why I’m writing this post – Doctor Strange and why I’m not particularly happy.

Yesterday it was reported that Benedict Cumberbatch was in talks to play Doctor Stephen Strange. His was a name rumoured for the role for weeks and other names floating around were Joaquin Phoenix, Ethan Hawke, Tom Hardy and Jared Leto – though to be honest, just about every white, middle-aged actor in Hollywood has been rumoured to be up for the role at some point or another.

Now talks of a Doctor Strange movie has been going around for a while but it especially kicked off when the name was dropped during Captain America: The Winter Solider. Fans were choosing who’d be their pick and mine was (and is) Oded Fehr from The Mummy. Fehr along with Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones) turned out to be a popular choice among fans. A popular post on Tumblr of Doctor Strange fancasts include Fehr, Pascal, Alexander Siddig, Naveen Andrews and Godfrey Gao. One thing all these actors have in common is that they are not white.

Doctor Strange vs Oded Fehr - the similarities are astounding. Courtesy of @BlackGirlNerds

Doctor Strange & Oded Fehr – the similarities are astounding. Courtesy of @BlackGirlNerds

One problem that the MCU (and Hollywood blockbusters in general) has is that all its leads in its franchises are white men. Yes, The Avengers was an ensemble cast but of the six major leads, only Scarlett Johansen’s Black Widow was the only female character and she has yet to get her own movie. The lack of a female led film in the MCU is a discussion for another time.

Doctor Strange (like the Guardians of the Galaxy before the film came out) is more of an unknown character, this would then allow the filmmakers to do something different with it. So why not cast a person of colour as the lead? Also, why does the actor have to be someone who is so well known – both in the world of fandom and in the industry? Benedict Cumberbatch is part of some major franchises with Sherlock, The Hobbit and Star Trek under his belt, if Thor taught us anything, casting two relatively unknown actors as the leads can work out really well. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston have both gone on to be well loved by fans and critics alike. Casting unknowns can be a cheaper way to make a movie and not detract from the character with their “star power”.

In short my dislike of Benedict Cumberbatch being Doctor Strange (a character I know pretty much nothing about bar the animated movie) comes down to two things. Over exposure to him as an actor and him being white. There are too many white male leads in the MCU and I’d love to see more diversity in the superhero comic book movie genre.

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw also wrote a great piece about why there’s such a backlash towards Benedict Cumberbatch’s casting.

As I was finishing writing this, Marvel has announced that there will be a Captain Marvel film in 2018 and a Black Panther film in 2017 and I’m excited about both (Black Panther especially) but I’m still a bit upset that there’s no Black Widow movie though there’s still no definite announcement about Doctor Strange. Who knows, maybe Benedict Cumberbatch won’t sign on to it and there will be fresh hope for a person of colour to play Doctor Strange once again?