Meet neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange, he’s as egocentric as any politician, yet as clever at his job as any detective. The well-acclaimed British actor Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game, Sherlock) takes the stage in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to depict perhaps the cleverest of Stan Lee’s caped crusaders. He delights you to watch as always, but the unusual approach to Doctor Strange may either paralyze you with amazement or scare you away.
His life seems comfortably straight forward: go to work, save a life, argue with his nagging coworker/girlfriend played by Academy Award nominee Rachel McAdams (Midnight in Paris, Spotlight), cherry pick the patients he wishes to save, and gloat about his spectacular perfection—until an uncalled-for car crash leaves his hands paralyzed under severe nerve damage.
…Which leads him to Nepal, where an Ancient One is said to live there with knowledge of spiritual healing.
So he goes under spiritual reconciliation by a cult, undergoing far more than he bargained for. Next thing he knows, he acquires the abilities to remove his spirit from his material body, create portals in midair, and fly with the powers of a live cape, all in an effort to save the world.
This highly entertaining addition to the MCU sways away from the familiar gadgets and aliens into an exploration of man’s relationship with the occult, which receives no respect in the way it’s portrayed. Normally, if a cult existed on old spiritual tradition, the members would not melt together in an ethnic pot as depicted here with one White woman, one Black man, and one Asian. Even if it may matter little to you, the racism hurts the film’s believability.
Although I do give director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) credit for telling the story as if it were a real Buddhist legend. He does it best through the most brilliant way: colorful trips through the spiritual universe that wows you off guard, especially when viewed behind 3-D glasses. While away from the infinite nonmaterialistic universe, Dr. Strange and his comrades fight against the assassins of time and space through city environments losing form within itself, like Inception through a kaleidoscope.
Older traditions of Hindu training are also exploited in the same fashion done by The Matrix: Dr. Strange gets thrown to Mt. Everest to test how quickly he can form a portal back to base. This moment might generate joyful shrieks from anime fans, except it misses its crucial chance at character development.
With something as delicate as occult practices thrown into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I doubt there could be a reasonable way to faithfully depict Buddhism under Marvel’s wing. I appreciate the attempted risks to give each feature its own unique atmosphere (just compare Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: Civil War). It was worth it to create the mind-bending kaleidoscopic fight sequences, but with Marvel’s name attached, I refuse to believe it would benefit the branding.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
“Doctor Strange (film).” Digital image. Fandom. Marvel Cinematic Universe Wiki, Web. <http://marvelcinematicuniverse.wikia.com/wiki/Doctor_Strange_(film)>.
Doctor Strange. Marvel. Web. <http://marvel.com/doctorstrange>.