One of my few principles as a film journalist is that I must give everything I watch a chance to impress me. That way, when I watch something like say The Hunger Games series, I am entirely justified in verbally crucifying it. And the same logic applies, sadly, to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I used to be all over these movies, then I got bored of them, and the The Winter Soldier happened and I was impressed again. So will Doctor Strange be the movie to bring the MCU out of its post-Civil War slump? Short answer: no.
Benedict Cumberbatch is quickly turning into Simon Pegg, ie British gem selling his soul to Hollywood for the sake of a fat paycheck. He plays Dr Stephen Strange, an egotistical and profoundly unlikeable surgeon who appears disgustingly overpaid even by American standards. He gets caught in a car accident which was entirely his fault because he was both speeding and talking on the phone, but apparently we’re supposed to feel sorry for him because his hands don’t work as well as they used to. Boo sodding hoo. Anyway, he nips off to Nepal to find a nice Caucasian wizard to heal him (best place to find them apparently). While he’s there he literally gets taught magic and spells and things, whilst simultaneously getting embroiled in a plot to destroy the world by some evil sorceror for no adequately explained reason. And the baddy is Mads Mikkelsen because of course it bloody is. I’m just thankful he has both eyes for once.
Let’s get one thing very clear about Doctor Strange: it doesn’t give a toss what the world thinks of it. This is a film that makes absolutely zero effort in introducing newcomers like myself to the concept of magic, astral projection or any of the other nonsense that it spews up. The motivations of both the villain and the supporting hero are completely absent, the core concept of spells is introduced but by no means explained, and the writing is just painful. Why? Because no effort was made! The screenwriter just took the same wisecracking, sarcastic quippery of Tony Stark and every Joss Whedon character ever made and just rams it in hoping to have the same effect. The cast of this movie is stellar. As well as Cumberbatch and Mikkelsen, you’ve got Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams (well she’s shit, but you take my point). A whole host of big names with absolutely bugger-all to work with in terms of s script. But why should we care when we’ve got crazy, mind-morphing visuals to keep us entertained. What’s that? Inception? Never heard of it!
This is what superhero films have become now. Formulaic, and utterly inconsequential. That’s what this film is. Nothing special, just another title on the ever lengthening list of MCU films. The only film I’ve seen this year that was a bigger waste of my time was Batman vs Superman, and that did so because it was longer. I am so sick and tired of superhero blockbusters, because they just aren’t trying any more. I would rate Iron Man as one of the best superhero films ever made because it took risks, and introduced a whole new generation of fans to the Marvel Universe. Doctor Strange couldn’t care less if you don’t know Dormammu from Kammar-Taj, all it wants to do is show New York in kaleidoscopic vision. And while we’re on the subject of not caring; Rachel McAdams. Fucking hell. I’m going to have to write a separate article about why you are a problem.
Truth is, if you’re a fan, this review won’t matter, because you’ve already seen the film, fallen in love with it, and stuck cutouts of Cumberbatch all over your bedroom walls. Me, I’ve just had enough. I’m tired of being treated like a big wallet on legs, but apparently decent entertainment is just too much to ask. Logan cannot come quick enough.