Doctor Strange

©2016 Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One and Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange in Marvel Studios’ DOCTOR STRANGE.

Like all comic book interpretations of gainful employment, Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) isn’t merely a neurosurgeon but the most perceptive neurosurgeon in the universe.  That is, before he even develops any superpowers.  Following a car accident that causes extensive damage to Strange’s hands (but oddly not his legs, his arms, or his spine), he reaches out to various colleagues for a medical solution.  Then, he turns to mystics in Nepal, including The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) who believes that Dr. Strange can help them defeat a fallen sorcerer named Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) who plots to destroy the universe.  There go my lunch plans.

A quick study, Strange masters the art of sorcery inside of what feels like a week due to the director’s roughshod pacing.   Protecting the Earth from extradimensional evil are three temples located in major cities, one of which comes under siege by Kaecilius and his associates.  This incident thrusts Strange into the Role He Doesn’t Want To Play.

Sorcerers can cross dimensions, instantaneously travel great distances and make the world topsy-turvy in a literal sense.  Consequently, while director Scott Derrickson attempts to rationalize whitewashed casting (the aforementioned Swinton in a role obviously fit for Michelle Yeoh, an actual Asian martial artist), that’s merely a symptom of his bigger problem: a complete lack of imagination.  Marvel and DC’s comic book films invariably fall into an action/comic genre.  Comics are a medium, not a genre.  They’ve spanned many different genres in print.  One of the few standouts in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is THE WINTER SOLDIER.  It was designed as a political thriller, inspired in part by 3 DAYS OF THE CONDOR and THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD.

Just as quickly as they branched, they returned to formula in subsequent offerings.  Some will argue this was due to economics but with international box office, video on demand, and other channels of distribution, every Marvel movie has been an overwhelming success.  They’re the biggest game in town, yet they refuse to take risks and drive better tastes.  I don’t believe for one second that Marvel couldn’t explore comedy, horror, drama, or any subgenre and turn a profit on it.  If grabbing the most cash possible is their only worry, they need only adjust production budgets accordingly.

If nothing else, the picture has a sense of humor.  Otherwise, DOCTOR STRANGE would be a dull walk down short-term memory lane, recycling their origin story formula: Affluent white guy gets knocked down a peg or two, gets rebuked by his girlfriend (Rachel McAdams) when he needs her support the most, has an epiphany at the hands of an (inexplicably white) eastern master, and re-emerges as a superhero: Doctor Peculiar.

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  • Kevin Sorbello

    The “inexplicably white” eastern master was not an “Eastern” master…Dr. Strange was told “the ancient” was “Celtic” but other than that, nobody knew how old she was. “Celtic”…NOT “Asian”…pay attention.

    • In the comics the character was explicitly Asian. Also, I’m fairly certain Strange went to Nepal, not Ireland. Hence “eastern”.

      • Alpha Flyer

        Well, this isn’t the comics… Whitewashing is a legitimate critique, although the original Ancient One was such a racial caricature that he wasn’t exactly problem-free, either. Replacing a male character with a female, and an actress who can play ethereal/enigmatic like few others, was actually quite an intriguing decision, and succeeded in teasing out of the character qualities that went beyond ethnicity. And that worked very well in the film — although coming to the movie “expecting to hate it,”and preferring another actress in the role, may have precluded you from actually looking at Swinton’s performance and the character created here for the MCU.

        Incidentally, the one time I went to a Tibetan monastery, one of the senior monks and the Lama’s No. 2 was a Brit…

      • Therealeverton

        She isn’t a Zen master, that’s the point he’s making. They went pretty far to show that these are the mystic arts, NOT the Eastern Mystic Arts.

        In the comics Thor is a god, with a magic hammer. Here he’s an alien with a piece of spectacularly advanced technology. Asgardians are of all colours / races, just like us and they aren’t Norse. So don’t blind yourself with what’s in the comics. Things change.

      • Holly_Wight

        1. The Ancient One is a title, not a person’s name, and there have been many of them of many races and backgrounds.

        2. This is the MCU, not the 616 Universe, where Ben Urich is black, Night Nurse is Afro-Cuban, Jessica Jones is a brunette, Aunt May is middle-aged, Nick Fury is black, and many other things are totally different. The “it’s that way in the comics” defense doesn’t fly here. This is the multiverse of Marvel, and in this universe, the MCU, The Ancient One is a Celtic woman. Deal with it.

        3. Everyone’s complaining about The Ancient One being a white woman, but not one of you is mentioning that Baron Mordo is played by a black man in the very same movie.

        4. If you’re upset about the lack of an Asian in the role, look no further than Wong being upgraded from servant to superior and Master of sorcery, getting all the best lines, and basically stealing the show. Not to mention, the movie was PACKED with Asian faces, so it’s not like they’re excluding anyone here.

        5. What does the geographic location of the school have to do with the race of the Ancient One? Good gosh, your imagination is stunted.

        • Well it’s a good thing they made a Ben Urich movie and a Night Nurse movie and a Jessica Jones movie. Aunt May… so diverse.

        • True_Chris

          Jesus how about 1) You get a life 2) you try and understand yourself. Your wasting your life on marvel. Sad.

  • Hagbard

    “affluent white guy”…from the moment you start your ‘review’ you’ve already nauseated me with your sickening racism.

  • midna25

    Damn Rubin, you are straight up a racist.

  • Therealeverton

    ” I don’t believe for one second that Marvel couldn’t explore comedy, horror, drama, or any subgenre”

    Like they have with Ant-Man, Winter Soldier, Civil War, Guardians of The Galaxy, ~Thor and the aforementioned Winter Soldier. They’ve been crossing Genres for more than half of their films, they’re pretty famous for using that to distinguish films, whilst keeping a familiar formula and coherent universe. This isn’t about you liking , or disliking, any of those films, but it’s disingenuous to act as if they don’t exist. As if Ant-Man was’t reviewed ans a family eist comedy, or Guardians a Space Opera or Thor 2 as Fantasy sci-fi and so on.

    Nothing is a guaranteed success either.

    • WINTER SOLDIER is really the one exception in that its entire backbone it is a political thriller that happens to involve superheroes. That’s how Markus and McFeely wrote it. I think the other films you mention all try for elements of comedy or what have you. However, I’m saying abandon the formula that always ends up as an action genre or origin story. I think that’s shooting fish in a barrel rather than doing something truly interesting and new.

      • Therealeverton

        What you say here is still, being done in films, just as I say. But also, they 1. don’t need to do that and shouldn’t. They are a super hero studio, they make super hero films. They make them in different genres and should continue to make both the films they are famous for and that people want, whilst also doing things like Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, Dr. Strange, , Guardians. We have Black Panther to look forward to, which will be very different again.

        You simply do not give them credit for the things they do. You don’t have to find something personalty enjoyable to acknowledge what it has done. Yes it has taken too long to get their non white male led (solo) films, but disingenuous and erroneous t pretend that th MCU is not diverse because of that

  • ESORentertainment

    Wow. You have no objectivity and base all your arguments off subjective (and racist) values. The fact you are on RT astounds me. What an awful critic and person you are.

  • Jonathan Strauss

    I haven’t seen the movie yet but I find it interesting and quite telling that all the critics on Rotten Tomatoes who support the movie have completely focused their critique on the visuals rather than providing any depth or insight into the story itself.

  • All but one, Black Panther, are supporting characters. And still no LGBT representation.

    • True_Chris

      “Marvel Cinematic Universe” … Rubin.. Each word aforementioned is an oxymoron to the next.

      “What’s on screen in the theater is what’s at issue”… Exactly. Exactly my friend, and marvel is not even worth reviewing, it says nothing about you, LGBT, society or anything of relevance in today’s world.

      Look around, look at the major problems we have, where is the hope and inspiration, and understanding that cinema can offer us. This crap by marvel is the equivalent of sticking your head in the sand, because you’ve heard Nero is playing. And you know what the outcome will be. Not pretty.

      How many days left because that comes to pass, less than 60 i think.

      But no, lets not think, lets not understand, let not looks for solutions…lets be thrilled by men in tights, or with cape —- woooh – what about both. That’ll surely distract everyone.

  • True_Chris

    Doctor Peculiar – More like Dr Rehash or better yet – Dr Trash.

    Please go away marvel – so we can get some good films at the cinema.

    As this was clearly utter TRASH.

    I feel quite sorry for the idiots who revel in this stuff, their minds must be sorely diminished – that they can write reams, and know all about the characters is oddly pathetic – because they know little of themselves.

    The Ancient one (really is that the best name they could come up with !!) Has a wonderfully ironic role by saying you have to know and understand yourself. Saw the matrix did we dear. The villain did, even with the ‘what do you want’ line.. Pathetic.

    FYI:
    For those that don’t know if this gets around 90% on RottenTomatoes, that’s means it’s garbage and folding money as well as free vacations were on offer to garner favor.