Marveling at Dr Strange

dr strange12017.15: Dr Strange (2016),  Blu-ray

They make it look so easy, don’t they? It must piss those boys at DC right off, seeing Marvel Studios parading its expertise at putting comicstrip adventures up on the big screen. Its pretty amazing really. When you really think about it, all this superhero nonsense is inherently juvenile, silly nonsense, but its actioned with such earnestness and conviction that audiences just lap it up. Why audiences are so ready for tales reduced to base concepts of good and evil and larger than life heroes and villains, modern mythologies to replace the Gods and Devils of old, I don’t know. I suppose that in this fairly-new millennium these superhero films function the same way as the Bonds and Star Wars of before, perhaps even on a bigger scale. The appeal, after all, is pretty universal- these films are hugely successful worldwide, across all kinds of racial and territorial boundaries. In an increasingly complicated and uncertain world, there is perhaps an appeal to simple heroes and villains.

So yeah, we can go about this review in two ways. On the one hand, Dr Strange is terrific entertainment with an engaging cast and pretty remarkable spectacle. On the other, well, its fairly routine Marvel Studios stuff. The film seldom really surprises and pretty much telegraphs much of what happens well in advance, particularly if you are familiar with Marvel’s output. Of course, that familiarity might be part of the charm of these films- all together they represent the Mother of All Box Sets, and there is an undeniable comfort blanket in losing yourself within this Marvel Studios universe, in just the same way as the comic Marvel universe had an escapist charm through my childhood. Barring a few missteps, those 1960s strips that I read in the 1970s weekly reprints of my childhood have been brought to vivid life- and most of those missteps are a personal thing regards updating 60s strips to our modern world. Yeah, I can’t help that, its just a personal thing- Spiderman’s New York will always be a 1960s Mad Men episode to me; it just feels odd in a modern world of mobile phones and computers seeing guys dressed up in funny costumes.

Heres the elephant in the room of course- its all looking so easy for Marvel, and yet DC seems to be finding it all so difficult. Likely that apparent ease is nothing of the sort and hides some really tricky work in the background, but up to now they have pretty much pulled things off very well. We have not seen Marvel blunder into making an artistic and commercial dud. At this stage, I doubt we will; if Marvel Studios ever does begin to stumble for success, it’s all the more likely it will be from audience fatigue rather than bad movies.

dr strange.jpgSo Dr Strange is a pretty strong Marvel movie and another addition to its roster of cinematic heroes. It isn’t perfect but it is reliable fun. And yeah, when I think about those 1960s strips by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, and how so much of them have been transposed to the movie screen here, it is frankly astonishing, how well it comes off without feeling camp or silly. Other than that, I don’t have much to really say, other than I really need to watch it again, as some of those big effects sequences were so busy I sometimes lost track of what the hell was going on- I kept thinking of that line from Jedi – “There’s too many of them!” There was so much going on in some of those mind bending effects shots.


4 thoughts on “Marveling at Dr Strange

  1. The character of Dr Strange never really grabbed me back in the 70s when I was devouring Marvel comics. Don’t know why, I just couldn’t get a handle on the character in the way I could with Spidey, Hulk, Thor, Iron Man and so on. I have to say they do appear to have nailed the look for this one with Cumberbatch.
    Why are superhero films so popular nowadays? They’re not my favorite genre by any means and I think there are arguably too many around but I think it has to be a desire for some clssic and understandable good vs evil setup in an increasingly ambiguous and confusing world.

  2. Personal story here: I took the family to see the movie during the US Election day. (I’d already voted.)

    Sat through the movie, saw Doctor Strange defeat the Dread Dormammu. Felt pretty satisfied. Came out and saw the current election results and who was winning. The Dread Dormammu! (Or at least the close equivalent.)

    So, I’m pretty sure just seeing the movie shifted me from a sane dimension, into one less sane.

    (I apologize for the political commentary. I enjoyed the Doc Strange movie, but as you say, it wasn’t perfect. But I was very happy with the Cloak of Levitation and its personality.)

  3. Marvel’s greatest trick is consistency — finding something that works and repeating it. All their claims about mixing in other genres, etc… it’s like changing your desktop wallpaper: the workings underneath are the same. I think Doctor Strange is one of my favourites, though, because it’s a particularly pretty desktop wallpaper — I loved the visuals.

  4. Pingback: …and another… – the ghost of 82

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