Doctor Strange (2016)

Mystic Master of the Fortune Cookie:

Doctor Strange


Dr. Strange



I don’t normally give much credence to nonsense ideas like ‘trigger warnings’.

This is the phrase used by those dainty little buttercups who want them posted at the beginning of books, films and whatever you’re having yourself, as a warning that certain content contained therein might just remind you of some trauma from your past life, thus sending you screaming up the walls and crying for your mamma.  It’s a phrase created by morons for other morons.

Mother of God, what a load of washed-out wimps the 21st century is guilty of producing.

Still, after seeing the Scott Derrickson-directed Doctor Strange, maybe in this case a trigger warning would actually be appropriate – because if you are one of those ageing hippies who took a lot of acid back in the day, some of the amazing visuals here might well set you off on another, very unexpected journey.

Never mind the ultra-bright colours and the trippy, hallucinatory rushes… there is one scene where the good doctor watches as the fingers of his hand grow little hands of their own and little fingers to wave along with the little hands and the little hands start crawling all over him and…

It’s just as well they strap me in at night here in the ward, because I know that I’ll be doing a lot of screaming over that one for a long time to come.

It’s also a bloody good job I liked the special effects, because that is about all I did take out of this afternoon time-waster.  Which came as a surprise, since I am an enormous fan of these Marvel Cinematic Universe movies.  This is the fourteenth in the ‘Avengers Initiative’ series; and for the various creators to have been so consistently good – and sometimes actually great – is no mean feat.

Even when the films have been a bit weak, like the Thor ones; or when we’ve had to endure scenes of Samuel L. Jackson looking intense or yelling a lot and just being Samuel L. Jackson, there has been merit in them.

No, I got very little in the way of enjoyment from Doctor Strange.

Possibly imagining that since we all like society-loving Tony ‘Iron Man’ Stark — the obnoxious, smart-ass playboy with the killer quips – writers Robert Cargill, John Spaihts and Derrickson himself thought that lightning would strike twice if they asked Benedict Cumberbatch to try a reasonable impression.  Only here the society-loving, limelight-loving, himself-loving neurosurgeon Stephen Strange is just obnoxious.  Hold the devilish charm and the smart quips – just obnoxious.

To nobody’s upset, he is involved in a car-accident (his own arrogant fault and a miracle he didn’t kill half-a-dozen people) that destroys his lovely surgeon’s hands.  As a result he tells his beautiful, talented – and likeable! – colleague Christine (the wonderfully natural Rachel McAdams) just how very little he thinks of her, adding with his customary politeness:  “Hell, we were barely even lovers”.

Since that was one of the more pleasant parts of his diatribe he could have donated a million Euros to my favourite charity after that and he would have still been on my shit list.

Become a Mystic Master in Twenty Seconds Flat!

Anyway, exhausting the medical possibilities of curing his mitts, our Stephen sets off to find some mystical Eastern Shangri-La (called Kamar-Taj here) and after asking around on a couple of Kathmandu street corners he is welcomed in with open arms.  The following day he leaves as a Master of the Mystic Arts, without in the slightest bit pissing off people like Mordo or Wong, who have been training there for donkeys’ years.

I wish to hell I had known it was this easy to do; I would have been hawking myself around Kathmandu in search of the Eastern Hogwarts years ago.

This is a film where there is no sense of time passing whatsoever.  The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) tells Strange that he will learn in the same way that he learned surgery – by years of study and effort.  Yet what we get is him trying to cast a few spells and getting annoyed at himself before she literally fucks his ass through a magical portal on the top of Everest, says get on with it and…well, a few minutes later, he’s back (no explanation), having worked out how to bend Time and Space.


And this thing with the Ancient One:  no more than with trigger warnings I don’t normally get bent out of shape over replacing one actor of a certain colour with another – but here it is just ludicrous.  The Ancient One was Asian.  That’s all there is to it.  And weirdly, the always watchable Swinton decides to play this shaven-headed Celtic (!) wise one as light and kinda funny.

Female Celtic shaman or not, every time she opens her mouth to impart Words of Ancient Knowledge she comes off sounding as if she’s swallowed a whole Chinese restaurant-full of fortune cookies.  The clichés are flying around like no one’s business.

Still, with Mads (Hannibal) Mikkelsen playing the chief Bad Guy, the film can’t be a complete washout, can it?


Mikkelsen is a fine actor but after seeing him in this ludicrous make-up job it will be a while before I can take him seriously in anything again.  And when he and his henchmen (yeah, it’s that kind of film) go charging down modern streets in their ridiculous outfits it’s enough to make you cry.

So I was left with the special effects – and no, I don’t give a damn that I seem to be in a minority of one when it comes to this film – and I even have a problem with them.

When the Daddy of them all, the trip through the Star Gate, takes place at the close of Kubrick’s 2001, the reason we were blown away is because it happened as an organic part of a great movie. In Strange, it’s the completely off-the-charts stupid idea of him learning how to project his astral body one afternoon when he was between speed-reading spells and then zooming off into the Wide Blue Yonder.  No context, nothing.

Ah well, Doc Strange is here to stay; and as this is the first time that Marvel have really disappointed me, I’ll be staying too.

What’s up next?  Is it the second Guardians of the Galaxy?

I’ll have a bit of that!









Author: Charley Brady

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  1. Well I’ll be damned I was expecting to come on here to read your review and to endure yet another gushing love in with a Marvel superhero movie, but I’m aghast Charley actually dislikes Doctor Strange and pretty much summed up everything I despised about it.

    To be honest Charley I think I’ve just about had my fill with these types of movies, the plot seems to be just a filler for the CGI guys to let us know how wonderfully clever they are, CGI when done right and in moderation can actually enhance a movie but its just become “overkill”, and it seems the villain is getting even lamer with every outing from Marvel?.

    The only thing that made me actually watch this borefest to its conclusion is I could stare at the beautiful Rachel McAdams all day long and behind that pretty face is a really competent actress.

  2. That opening paragraph really had me laughing. Yeah, I guess I do come across as a bit ‘cup-of-fanboy-love-overfloweth’ when I rave on about these films. But I gotta tell you, Patrick, we seem to be in the minority when it coomes to hating this movie.

    Still, I confidently expect to be back to my gushing self with the next in the series — as long as ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2’ can live up to the marvelous original.

    And I completley agree with you about the divine Ms. McAdams. Smarmy Benedict Strange throwing this gorgous lady over was just one more reason to hate him.

    Not that I needed another reason.

  3. I think the critics gushing over it has exaggerated the ratings, but at least we’re in agreement as regards Guardians loved the original, but why do I get that horrible feeling the next installment will be a damp squib, hope I’m wrong?.

  4. I enjoyed it; Strange had a good arc in that he becomes more selfless and willing to care. It culminates in the final fight with Dormammu; whereas before he would do certain surgeries for fear of failing and hurting his record now he’s willing to die in obscurity and failure to stop Dormammu. He also made amends to Rachel McAdams and becomes more likable as time passes. I agree there should have been more a sense of time passing (like how the past sections take place in 2011 when Iron Man 2 took place and the current day is 2016.)

    I did find him devilishly charming though and the magic was VERY well done.

  5. It only took him about a week to find redemption. And he would have had to grovel to the divine Ms. Adams for the rest of Eternity to make up for the lousy way he treated her.

    Mind you, one scene in that film that makes me laugh even now — when he’s doing something in the foreground and his Cloak of Levitation is battering the hell out of someone in the background. And is it my imagination or did JK Rowling lift a lot of gimmicks from Strange?

    The climactic battle…whooo, just made me think of a far better movie — ‘Edge of Darkness’ with Tom Cruise.

    As to devilishly charming people: Bill Clinton and Obama are that and I wouldn’t trust them as far as I could throw them. Come to think of it, actress Joan Collins had the best take on creepy Obama: ‘Whatever you think of him, he does have wonderful teeth.’

    Yep. That’s about right.

    When I get a chance, I’m doing something on ‘Split’, which I saw last night. Yowza! Blew me away, that one did!

  6. I think that it was more than a week. More like months. And it was explained by him remembering everything he’d read
    I enjoyed it a great deal though. The way he beat Dormammu was clever. Powerful as he is he has no concept of time and doesn’t like frustration, so I can see Strange outplaying the fucker

  7. I think that it was more than a week. More like months. And it was explained by him remembering everything he’d read
    I enjoyed it a great deal though. The way he beat Dormammu was clever. Powerful as he is he has no concept of time and doesn’t like frustration, so I can see Strange outplaying the fucker

  8. That’s just that thing called ‘sarcasm’, Ryan (which I really ought to stop). I know that it was months but it just didn’t feel that way.

    Anyway, as I’ve said many times, one of the things that I love about movies – and Art in general – is that I’ll see one thing and you’ll see another, out of the very same thing. Part of the fun. What’s the betting that you don’t like ‘Split’ whilst I’m raving about it.

    It’s a great many years since I read a ‘Strange’ comic — I mean, I’ve read a lot of strange ones, but…); but I recall an astonishing, multi-issue story arc from the 70s. Allowing for the flaws of a brain that saw too much booze down the decades, I recall it had the Baron — I THINK he was in the guise of something called Sis-eneg — travelling back through Time as he gathers ultimate power to himself.

    Pursued by Strange, he goes through places like Sodom & Gommorah and even back to Adam and Eve. I may have some of the details wrong but it was way out there for it’s time and I believe it got into trouble with some Christian groups.

    In any case, the sorceror becomes God Itself and Creation begins again.

    Now THAT is something I would like to see on film – not chasing around Buffy-style after an ancient tome…

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