A Skosh of the Strange: A Review

While I do treasure the opportunity to regurgitate my befuddling life story in bits and pieces of half-baked sermonizing onto this here internets for the purposes of the reading entertainment of others, I can also see how the meandering philosophizing could grow tiresome or, more likely, depressing for the average reading audience. The harsh existentialism and logic that rules my every flatulatory giggle does necessitate some temperance in delivery, so I thought I’d take this entry in a bit of a different direction. I watched Dr. Strange last night. First viewing. No spoilers, just broad strokes.

*cue music*

Strangelove

The highly sexual Benny C stars, as a man you probably wouldn’t want to leave alone with your children, in this 47,722nd installment into the Marvel cinematic universe.

 

Ok, seriously this time.

*triumphal music*

Benny C as strange

Impregnate my future wife, Henningdeck Cumberbund.

Superhero fatigue is a very real phenomena, and one that has affected me personally. Looking at the sea of comic book movies planned out until the last black hole evaporates in a googol years, I can’t help but sigh a bit as the churning out of movie after movie by corpulent movie studios becomes hopelessly predictable, like, well, like the comic books themselves, where the type of paint thinner you need to ingest to get yourself up to speed on things like the multiverse and the actual Infinity War is enough to spin the head of the most hardened of Sterno-addled hobos. While it is endlessly gratifying to see such a meteoric rise in popularity in something that held mere niche appeal in recent memory, I can’t help but be skeptical of the parade of morally cut and dry superheroes on offer. At least as far as their screen depictions go but blahblahblah…

So, believe my sincerity when I say that I loved Dr. Strange. And the bomb. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ok, last Dr. Strangelove joke.

Dr. Strange was good. But ‘love’ is an ephemeral term, amorphous, powerful, and difficult to nail down with a staple gun like that football-sized cockroach in my cellar.

In a genre built on spectacle, with some of the most talented cinematic minds of this generation devoted entirely to coming up with the action scenarios I used to dream up in my underwear at night, with sweaty palms clasping Batman fighting Goku Marquis of Queensbury-style, Dr. Strange definitely stands out for all the right reasons. I’ve heard the Inception comparison thrown around a lot in my own head, which, along with a cursory Wikipedia search constituted my sole research for this little critique, and I find it quite apt. Some of the visuals are reminiscent of that otherworldliness from Chrissy Nol’s famous dreamscapes.

Strange city

Yea, yea, promo photo. Seriously, in context this shit is stunning.

And yet, many of the visuals go so much farther, embracing the more fantastical elements of its comic book source material with some otherworldly color schemes. The melting of the ‘real world’ around our heroes is a delight to behold, and the scenes where the movie descends into balls-to-the-wall mindfuckery is something to see whether you’re into superhero movies or not. Two scenes in particular stand out with large cityscapes fluctuating under different transfiguring magics like a Dali painting.

null

Chiggity check those fractals, yo. I hesitated to even include stills here, part of me not wanting to spoil it for the two people that may read this that haven’t seen the film, part of me wanting to include them for illustrative purposes. There was also another part of me that just wanted to dance around naked in the rain, but we don’t talk about that guy anymore.

However, a movie should be capable of standing on more than its visuals or action sequences. I wouldn’t have referenced a movie from 1964 earlier if I didn’t have some film critique street cred. So, how does Dr. Strange hold up when there aren’t enough explosions on to distract the groundlings from the gray predictability of life as a professional cart pusher/burger flipper?

Well, I’d consider the character of Dr. Strange to be one of the highlights of the Marvel universe so far. Stephen Strange, because alliterations haven’t been frivolously fucked to death or anything, is a deeply flawed human being, hubris practically oozing from his pores, with boundless arrogance and a penchant for the ostentatious. The film goes to great lengths to show this in our introduction to the character. One of the more memorable scenes has him going through a list of patients and deciding whether to treat this one or that based on the glory to be garnered when he’s successful. You know, like an abject sociopath/detestable pile of human excrement. Hunderchunk Flumbersnatch plays the character with the ease and wit you would expect given his experience playing an arrogant ponce of gifted intellect.

Ben C Sherlock

Unrelated Sherlock promotional poster.

The secondary cast members I was generally less keen on. While the dynamic between Rachel McAdams and my future husband is there, she isn’t really given enough screen time herself to properly develop her character. Her depth is illustrated entirely through interactions with Strange, which is disappointing, but unsurprising. I will say that I eagerly await her appearance in any future properties involving the Benny C Dr. S., as I enjoyed the resolution of their plot line in the end of the movie and her not succumbing to any damsel in distress bullshittery that tends to be endemic to these genre films.

Good to see Chiwetel Eijofor getting additional work as well, after his rise to prominence post-12 Years a Slave, as I always find his presence compelling. His character, Mordo, is rather boring and predictably set up as a future foil to my sweet Bennykins, but it was a decent performance, illustrating his disillusionment with his former master and propensity for questioning Strange’s methods in equal measures.

The antagonist, however, was complete weak sauce.

Strange Bad Guy

Candid photo from his audition to replace Gerard Way and revive My Chemical Romance.

No offence, to the actor, Mads Mikkelsen, as I feel the gentleman did a fine job with what was written. Not that I know him or anything. But he probably doesn’t eat the flesh of newborn goats. There’s a quote for the back of the box.

The issue is that the part, as written, was utterly generic on multiple accounts. Disillusioned student of an old master back to piss in her Cheerios and wreck shit? Check. Plan to destroy the world by remaking it with the help of some Cthulhu facsimile from another dimension arbitrarily held back by the power of friendship? Check. Both of his overarching motivations have been done to death since time immemorial, and didn’t serve any compelling purpose other than as ‘the thing the hero needs to stop’, the ‘call to action’ of Joseph Campbell fame. Snoresville.

Structurally, the film left a bit to be desired as well. I mentioned Joseph Campbell. I’m mentioning him again. Just for fun.

Virtually the entirety of the first forty-five minutes of this hundred-fifteen minute film was spent introducing the audience to the character and his origin along with training sequences. Hero turns away. Call to action, no choice. We’ve all seen this four-hundred twenty thousand times. Again, this is an understandable flaw in that the movie has to set up a character and give them reasons and motivations for why they wipe their ass in the morning to last an entire series of movies, but it still detracts from the film taken on its own. It’s a bit of a slow burn. Luckily, there is enough teased in those beginning segments, partially through massive amounts of technicolor orgasmatronics, to hook the audience in to see where the story will go.

And I’m, unironically, very excited indeed to see where this series will go, particularly within the larger context of the world, laden with references to other superheroes. Dr. Strange could be a game changer in the Marvel universe as what we’re dealing with in this film is magic, pure and simple.

(L-R)   Anthony DeMarco, Christian Bale
And not this faffy sleight of hand bullshit either. Dr. Strange would’ve imbued that coin with wibbly-wobbly magic fizz and launched it with the explosive force of the Czar Bomba.

This movie has opened up an entire universe of possibilities that Marvel could take advantage of. Magic exists. Dimensional travel. Much insanity to be had. Holy shit. Not sure how that’ll be pulled off without rendering the Hawkeyes of the world ever more comically obsolete, but that’s why I haven’t been hired to join in on the screenwriting jamboree that is Infinity War.

Yet.

So, would I recommend Dr. Strange? Well, yes. I didn’t write the most glowing of recommendations, but, truthfully, I don’t want to spoil it for those two that haven’t seen it. And if you do plan on watching it from this post, because my o so delicate writing voice makes your loins pulsate like feral porcupines, let me give you some advice…

Strange LSD

Pop a few LSD first. And tell me how it goes.

As always, pleasant eve to yeh, lasses and laddies.

PS: As a clerical matter, I was mulling over doing a review or commentary on some item for one day, like this post or the post over the Bacon pieces, and something more pertaining to my life the other day. Still three days in between. If you’ve read this far, I’d love to hear your opinion. Whether that be on here or Facebook or wherever. Many thanks to you, legionaries of the Zatboof.

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