Film Micrœview #318: Dr. Strange (2016)

11.27.2016 § Leave a comment

Rating: Good.

I do believe I’ve rated every Marvel movie I’ve seen either “Shrug” or “Bad”. This one was a cut above the rest, exclusively for its immensely creative, entertaining, and well-crafted action sequences. I feel like no matter how formulaic a narrative is, you have to give a movie props for featuring combat inside mandelbulbs, combat in a combination of forwards and reversed time (on tracks in one spatial dimension toward a target, but featuring characters flipping which of the two temporal directions they are moving within it), and a coup against the ultimate baddy involving an epistemologically ambiguous infinite time loop in a dimension lacking time, whatever that even means, but I feel fortunate that a Hollywood movie asked me to think about it. Pretty much fuck yeah on all those counts.

Some have compared it to Nolan films, like a cross between the city layers rotating into perpendicularity with each other of one of the early dream sequences of Inception, and gravity rotating combat of later ones, and the extradimensional singularity bookshelf of the ending of Interstellar. To me, what the film most strongly evoked was the Matrix – everything from the rippling distortion passing across the surface of a glass skyscraper to the “only if you really believe you can do it” dojo shenanigans.

Now it does have a horrible case of Underwritten Female Supporting Character, and a horrible case of Whitewashing. Tons of missed opportunities there. I don’t care if you didn’t have much to work with in the original strip, come up with something. Though I am deeply conflicted on this matter due to how awesome Tilda is.

Also had a horrible case of Forgettable And Redundant Muzakle Score. Couldn’t they have done some depth circular, partially in reverse, or alternately tuned (at least Eastern flavored?!?) music? Or at least some of the seventies hits that Strange had memorized? Something verging on the psychedelic maybe??

And despite the imaginativeness of the combat sequences, a lot was left on the table philosophically. As funny as the line about “of course you’re the bad guy, look at your face!” was, they could have said something, anything, about nonduality here, even a reference to Yin Yang. This would have jived with the Ancient One’s usage of the dark force, of the bending of the natural laws, and the implicit other extreme imbalance that Mordo will advocate for. Any reference to Eastern thought was a mere mockery, underscoring the whitewashing.

That all said, I have to admit that in terms of hitting all the right Hollywood beats, forcing the protagonist to grow and learn and change yadda yadda, they absolutely nailed it. Not to the point of elevation to art, hell no, but I can appreciate the struggle of a doctor whose sworn goal is to preserve things and never destroy them, being asked to use what the enemy critiques most about his reality and could be posited therefore to be his greatest enemy (time) as his only weapon against his foe. And that his sworn goal is said to be just a pose he strikes while selfishly seeking his own glory and progress is simultaneously perfectly overcome through his sacrifice in stagnation. It’s almost too clever. Definitely just an “I see what you did there,” but certainly a classic traditional narrative Character Development moment. I’ve got to hand it to them on this one.

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