Fri 25 Nov 2016
The genre of movies inspired by comics books seems to be one of the safest bets in Hollywood nowadays. It attracts stars and talents, and sometimes the results are brilliant. This is not the case with Doctor Strange, a film that tries to be different that the norm, but lacks in my opinion emotion and relies to a very large extent on special effects and the stars involved in the cast. Do they however get the roles they deserve? I love all work that I have seen until now by Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton, but to a large extent I feel that their talent was wasted here.
Script author and director Scott Derrickson specializes in films that combine reality and super-natural. This is the case with ‘Doctor Strange’ which is conceived as a fantasy combination between comics super-heroes and oriental philosophy or better said oriental mysticism. Unfortunately the whole ‘philosophy’ behind the film which is supposed to get the upper hand over the ‘materialistic’ and scientific is just cheap comics level phraseology. At first the combination hits the ridicule, later, with the repetition it becomes simply boring, so it did not work for me not even at the entertainment level. Also, for someone who did not read any of the original comics series some of the details and characters remain obscure – for example there are two level of ‘bad guys’ – one is more physical, the other more, let us say ‘meta-physical’ – I could not understand the relations between the two. There may be a full mythology developed in the comics series behind, but it stood hidden from me as just a film viewer.
With the text being so thin, much is left to the visual part, which is certainly nothing less than impressing. The special effects of the alternate worlds are spectacular and will probably enter the contest for the Academy Awards in the technical categories (but have we not seen many of these already in ‘Inception‘?) I have seen the 3D version which could have benefited from more light, but this may have been the problem of the cinema theater I saw the movie in.
The cast is impressing. Benedict Cumberbatch delivers the expected but his intensity seems wasted because of the pseudo-philosophical text, and his conversion from scientist to mystic arts master is not very credible. This is leaving to Tilda Swinton the best role in the film, another proof of her talent to build highly original composition characters. She is a strong contender in the supporting role competition at the Oscars. Yet, despite the visuals and the acting I could not avoid the feeling of confusion and lack of substance of the whole film. At the end of the film I felt like after one of these glamorous theater shows on Broadway where a lot of talent and effort (and money) are invested with little artistic or emotional return.