Doctor Strange (NOW PLAYING)

NOTES: This is a SPOILER-FREE review.  If you go see this film, wait to see the mid credits scene (which I caught), as well as the end credits scene (which I missed). 

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One of the first things I learned re: this film (via social media outlets) was re: the casting controversy of Tilda Swinton, which drew accusations of whitewashing, as the character is portrayed as a Tibetan man in the source material.  Director/writer Scott Derrickson wanted the Ancient One to be an Asian woman, but felt that it would be perceived as exploiting Asian fetish and “a fanboy’s dream girl.”  He decided to cast a non-Asian actor in the role, but to still take the opportunity to cast “an amazing actress in a male role.”  He thus wrote the role of the Ancient One especially for Swinton, feeling that she was the obvious choice for such a mystical and mysterious role. One proposed reason for the change is that a movie featuring a Tibetan character will not be acceptable in China (a very important foreign market). Hmmm… What do YOU think about this?

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I’m very excited about that spiritual dimension. It’s something that’s been a huge part of my life. I meditate a lot, that’s a huge tool in trying to calm myself, get away from the crazy circus of it all, have a focused mind as well as be a kinder, considerate person in the world.  Benedict Cumberbatch

The Batch was the MAIN draw for me (as well as  other non-comic book or regular Marvel fans)!  I was VERY interested when I found out he was cast.  It was cool to see Chiwetel Ejiofor (Mordo), as well as Benjamin Bratt (Jonathan Pangborn) from Law & Order.  Cumberbatch has an American accent for this role (which is quite good); his voice is deeper and his physicality is different (from what we’re used to seeing in previous roles).  He embarked on a strict training regimen by working w/ a personal trainer, drinking protein shakes and eating double his usual amount of calories.  Yes, there is a shirtless scene where we see the result.  On Jimmy Kimmell Live, Cumberbatch exclaimed: “I worked out for seven months!” 

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…the humour comes from the fact Strange thinks he can crack one liners but can’t.  It was meant to be awkward.  The audience I saw it with got that and were laughing away.  -IMDB reviewer

He tries to make a joke that almost intentionally falls flat, and the comedy is in the awkwardness (the non-reaction that he gets from people).  -Charlie, Emergency Awesome

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It has a very psychedelic grounding, and most of the work is about other dimensions. Ben Davis, cinematographer, re: Disney’s Fantasia (1940)- one of the visual influences for this film

In a time when special effects usually cover up for weak screenwriting, I think this is a film where the SFX are another character and actually help tell the story. -IMDB reviewer

Doctor Strange is “a solo origin story” (as Charlie, host of YouTube’s Emergency Awesome channel says in his review.)  I agree w/ him that there is “an underdeveloped villain” (Kaecilius, played by Mads Mikkelson), but “a great set-up.”  If you’re NOT a comic book fan, do go see it anyway, b/c ALL the actor’s performances are great!  Even though Rachel McAdams doesn’t have a BIG role, she does a good job here as Dr. Christine Palmer (who has a complicated relationship w/ Dr. Stephen Strange). As for Asian representation, that comes mainly in the form of British-Chinese actor Benedict Wong (recently seen in The Martian).  He is a librarian/warrior who is NOT amused by Strange’s jokes. 

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3 thoughts on “Doctor Strange (NOW PLAYING)

  1. This is another one that I’ll wait to see until it’s on TV, but I have followed the “whitewashing” controversy a little bit. In absence of any familiarity with the source material or the film, I’d hypothesize that the source material is probably also racist/orientalist on some level as portrayals of non-whites in American comic books so often are.

    I honestly don’t know what to think about this. I remember the controversy when BC was cast as Khan and the director saying that he didn’t want to cast a brown-skinned person as a terrorist at that moment. Which was reasonable but also felt like a copout since it seemed like a way to get BC into the film and make lots of money.

    There is a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” quality to these decisions but that doesn’t mean there is no good solution. I wish I had the confidence that the decisionmakers were being thoughtful and not just reacting to market forces (China ?? — I absolutely believed that part of the narrative — I basically think these superhero movies are all really directed at that audience).

    What do you think?

    • I don’t read comic books (so can’t speak for that). Also, I haven’t (yet) seen many Marvel movies; I really liked “Daredevil” & “Luke Cage” (Netflix). From a FEW podcasts I listen to, I learned re: China being a V big market & US studios working to relate to those audiences (making more movies that are NOT heavy on dialogue, but have a LOT of action and special effects).

      As for the casting issue, I feel like that either has to come from the top down (which is V rare) or POCs have to invest MORE to make our own movies, TV shows, online content, etc. There are FEW success stories like Issa Rae (“Awkward Black Girl” on YouTube few yrs back) who has own comedy show now on HBO (“Insecure”). Another example is Indian-American/Muslim, Hasan Minhaj (“Goatface Comedy” on YouTube ), who was under 30 when cast on “The Daily Show.”

      • I agree about making your own movies. As the non-white audience in the US takes up a greater proportion of the entertainment market, this should gradually get easier.

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