Movie Review: Doctor Strange

Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange provides a visually-captivating backstory to one of Marvel Comic’s most intriguing characters. Dr. Stephen Strange is Stan Lee’s answer to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, and appropriately played by Benedict Cumberbatch. He is a well-accomplished neurosurgeon known for his acute wit, extraordinary depth of knowledge and overbearing ego. After a brief, yet life-changing rendezvous with a horrendous car accident, Strange is left with crippled hands, unable to perform surgery, which was the only thing that brought meaning to his life. After an encounter with a former paraplegic who was mysteriously healed, Strange is directed to Kathmandu where he encounters the Ancient One. The Ancient One reveals to Strange a realm of reality incomprehensible to his scientific mind. Yet, Strange’s encounter with the astral plane and other dimensions would began to change his life forever.  

This film is one of the best example of cinematography. The way the film portrayed the complexity of interwoven dimensions was enough to leave the audience bewildered, yet mesmerized. The visual effects effectively captured the audience’s imagination while allowing a relatively conovulated topic to be easily understood. 

I was impressed by Cumberbatch’s affected American accent. I’ve always been puzzled on how effortlessly British actors can imitate the American accent. Somehow, we, on the other side of the Atlantic, received the short end of that stick. 

Cumberbatch’s chemistry with Rachel McAdams’ character, Christine Palmer, was watchable, but completely tame and unremarkable. Both actor are competent in their craft, no doubt. However, for some inexplicable reason, I don’t think they make a convincing pair. 

The rest of the cast did exceptionally well for their respective roles. I think they brilliantly captured the moral ambiguity  of their situation and the conflicting emotions associated. Marvel comics have typically been more realistic in their portrayal of flawed heroes being overshadowed by murky circumstances. 

A minor disappointing facet was its depiction of the culture of eastern mysticism and spirituality. When Strange is directed to Kathmandu, where he encountered the chosen one, I expected him to have an enlightened encounter with the esoteric profoundness of the Eastern schools of philosophical thought. However, Strange is merely exposed to some vague, cliched proverb of “mind over matter” which enables him to acquire superpowers and access to different dimensions.

Speaking of misrepresenting Asian culture, I have to turn into SJW mode. In the original comics, the Ancient One is depicted as an elderly Asian man. However, in the film, the Ancient One is not a he, but a she (well, a bald-headed, androgynous-looking she). Derrickson was apparently worried that the image of an aging Asian man would evoke the outdated Fu Manshu stereotype. He further claimed that an elderly Asian woman would evoke the Dragon Lady trope and a younger Asian woman would be perceived as “exploiting the Asian fetishes of Marvel fanboys”. Honestly, I don’t understand the logic of this explanation. Not to mention Derrickson unintentionally exemplified another old Hollywood stereotype: Casting white actors to play Asian roles!

As if Ghost in the Shell wasn’t enough!!

Nevertheless, Doctor Strange is an eye-dazzling masterpiece with an intriguing story coupled with abstract themes and sprinkled with sardonically witty one-liners. If you enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy or Sherlock Holmes, this movie is definitely for you