Wednesday, November 02, 2016

no stranger thing

When I learned that Scott Derrickson’s “Doctor Strange” was finally screening in the local cinemas, I was genuinely excited. But one evening, upon leaving the theater, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I’ve been through this before. You see, the latest Marvel Studio’s film is like Iron Man but only with magic—here is an arrogant man that went through disastrous circumstances and went through a period of recovery and then discovery and went on saving the world (and the reality of existence itself) and went on meeting an Avenger. This is not to say that Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance as the titular character is unimpressive. In fact, it is the opposite. He is full of wit, full of sharp, biting British humor. But then again, it feels like I’ve been through this before too. Case in point: his performance in the much-superior “Sherlock” TV series. It is a shame because this film has rounded up such an extraordinary, talented group of actors. There is Tilda Swinton who, without surprise, manages to pull off being a bald, seemingly-Oriental sorcerer but remains only as a fortune cookie wisdom-giver to our hero (which only further confirms my belief that she is Hollywood’s Meryl Streep for surreal, out-there characters). There is Mads Mikkelsen who is born to be a villain (see “Hannibal”, “Casino Royale”) but unfortunately ends up just like many of the villains in the past Marvel films: forgettable. There is Chiwetel Ejiofor who is such a solid artist in films like “12 Years A Slave” [2013] and “Children of Men” [2006] but also ends up like Mads Mikkelsen. There is Rachel McAdams who, as always, aces her job as a tough-cookie woman in a world dominated by men, just like in her past movie and television roles, only to be relegated in this movie as the obligatory love interest of our hero (which even felt forced). There is Benedict Wong who seems to be added in the cast to quiet down the controversy of having Tilda Swinton taking over the role of an Asian character. But all in all, it was an enjoyable viewing, especially if one does not think of all these little grievances or those who couldn’t care less (just like those in the audience who didn’t laugh at moments of hilarity but laughed at the sight of a black man). And those visuals, what a treat! I will not say they are original. In fact, such bombastic imagery has been previously showcased to great effect in films like The Matrix Trilogy, “Dark City” [1998], “The Adjustment Bureau” [2011], and most obviously, Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” [2010]. I think the action sequences are what saved this film from being mediocre at best—when the laws of physics are violently wrenched and broken here and there by both friendly and unfriendly sorcerers, the Rube Goldberg, M.C. Escher-like set pieces will certainly leave everyone in awe, as in literally, you will open your mouth in amazement. Which is kind of good, I guess, because it will remind you of your popcorn getting cold in the dark.

[ photo borrowed from this site ]