The great threat for superhero movies is the temptation to over-rely on formulaic presentation. For that reason, Doctor Strange doubly impresses. With its earnest attempt to feel different.
Incredibly profitable as they still are, I think a cosmic threat looms over superhero movies. They are so well-known and popular nowadays, even non-comic readers are familiar with their various associated tropes. For the lazy producer, this means a seductive and convenient checklist of to-dos and not-to-dos. Tick and tick, exclude and exclude. There. The latest is ready to go. Oh, remember to include a mid-credits scene to promote the next production with.
Doctor Strange isn’t ground breaking, but whether in story, characters, or effects, you feel there is that deliberate effort to stand apart from other Marvel entries. At the same time, Benedict Cumberbatch also does a splendid job in bringing the Sorcerer Supreme to life. He effortlessly injects style and humour into a snob character, one that could otherwise so easily turn out to be disagreeable. And then there are the kaleidoscopic background effects. Oh so mersmerising and quite the antithesis of the CGI wanton destruction scenes we have gone numb to over the years. To put it another way, I am quite willing to pay to watch Doctor Strange again, if only to gawk once more at those dizzying Escher-ish scenes or guffaw at Cumberbatch’s misadventures with his cape. I just can’t get enough of both.
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PS: Director Scott Derrickson deserves commendation for his efforts to avoid certain stereotypes of the Silver Age of Comics. Now, I’m Asian, and honestly, these stereotypes have never bothered me that much. (To me, they are manifestations of a duller age.) Still, it’s heart-warming to see a movie producer actively shun such stereotypes. I’m inclined to pass the romantic statement that it’s proof the world has gotten a step closer together.