With every new character introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe I would only be willing to approach the concept with caution given my general feelings towards their output primarily because I feel it’s difficult enough trying to tell the stories apart from one another besides the fact that another iconic character is in the leading role. The case with Doctor Strange could easily have been something different now that we have Scott Derrickson behind the camera but once again the case becomes clear: a director’s talent being wasted behind a product that will garner attention from those who have followed along with the MCU over the years. I’ve found myself fatigued at their lack of willingness to stand apart from one another, but I still watch them anyway only to see if a different experiment comes into play and I’ve always walked out empty.
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular sorcerer/superhero, Doctor Strange carries the same old, same old: as if you would expect from the Marvel Cinematic Universe once again. Whether it range from rushes romantic subplots for the sake of creating a supposed dramatic arc, and the same archnemesis to be fought. The same basic outline is already enough to have myself turned off from what Marvel wishes to present inside of something that could easily have led somewhere else given as Doctor Strange is one of the most bizarre superheroes to bear Marvel’s name, and instead it suffers from becoming what has been said and done for the past few years already and maybe even longer. Bits and pieces of potential can be found, all to have been thrown away.
Doctor Strange is a bizarre character, and if there were something made clear from director Scott Derrickson’s vision, he tries to capture this aura just based on the world around him rather than within himself. Against the background there is something that could at least grab the eye thanks to the film’s visual style but strip that away and you’re left with a carbon cut out of the usual Marvel Cinematic Universe protagonist that we have been receiving within so many films to the point it’s already tiring. Benedict Cumberbatch is a talented actor, but under this role it’s clear that he just feels unfit not on the count of an unconvincing accent but rather on how it just feels so cardboard as a whole, and more a phoned in role rather than something of distinguishable effort. Sure, we’ve had so much of this already in Captain America: Civil War, but Doctor Strange borders only within one area and never leaves.
What else is set to come from a Marvel Cinematic Universe film as one would expect? When you come to consider the manner to which it was written, more forced jokes come in and make the scene feel awkward rather than actually add anything of meaning. It’s a recurring problem that I have had with the Marvel Cinematic Universe that only goes to show how cardboard these films feel and I was hoping Scott Derrickson would move away from that just to capture a natural sense of the bizarre that fits for a character like Doctor Strange and the world that he encounters. Speaking again of cardboard, look once again at Mads Mikkelsen: a wonderful actor whose talents are wasted badly as the generic MCU villain role, one who only seems present for the purpose of our protagonist to fight in order to move somewhere and in typical MC fashion, is inconsequential at best.
Where I can find myself admiring the film, however, would be from how Scott Derrickson just lets traces of his true vision make the film as bizarre as it is at least when it feels natural. Moving away from the horror genre it seems as if he is finding himself taking great comfort only within a mood that just feels so absurd and almost out there, which is strange for a film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Derivative visuals aside (I kept thinking back too much to the visuals and their resemblance towards Christopher Nolan’s Inception), his skill for building atmosphere is always one that draws attention for traces of actual creativity are sparked in. It’s a shame that this sort of talent is put aside only in favour of standard storytelling that we have already seen so much to the point it has only grown as tiresome as it is.
Sometimes I can only wonder where a superhero movie with the sort of creativity I wish for can come about because the Marvel Cinematic Universe never seems as if it were an inviting field for such, rather instead cardboard cutouts with different characters and moments of awkwardness and the usual Stan Lee cameo. Doctor Strange had boatloads of potential and only fragments of it are ever present in Scott Derrickson’s vision but from Benedict Cumberbatch’s phoned performance all my frustrations with the Marvel Cinematic Universe have come clearer once again. There are fun moments but then that awkwardness of a cardboard feeling the Marvel Cinematic Universe always has to bring in ends up killing it, but I’m waiting till an experiment comes that tries something new with these characters rather than an autopilot that these films have been staying under, bringing talent down with them.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
Directed by Scott Derrickson
Screenplay by Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill, from the comics by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Produced by Kevin Feige
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott Adkins, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton
Release Year: 2016
Running Time: 115 minutes