Thursday, November 24, 2016
I've just seen Doctor Strange - the new Marvel movie starring the very British Screen God Benedict Cumberbatch. It was mildly jarring to watch a film about holy men studying the eternal verities so that they could learn how to kick someone's nose out through their earholes, but then things went boooom and i remembered that this was a Marvel movie - these fellows weren't holy men, they were doorkeepers! And the fellows knocking on the door burned with manifest destiny and carried nuclear weapons. With the safety off.
(I wonder if any of the 21st century Americans involved in the project picked up on the irony of that?)
Mr Cumberbatch plays a bossy white guy who thought he knew everything, and then found out he didn't, and then he did, and then he saved the world.
And there are three whole women in the cast! Really! And two of them even have speaking roles! One of them is a very nice white lady who was the Supreme Sorcerer, and she gets to say lots and lots of portentous wisdom things that clearly looked better on the cue cards than they sound being wrestled around a set of actual tonsils (portentous wisdoms are all right in their own time and place, but two or more characters standing gravely in a mostly-Tibetan-temple taking it in turns to drop fortune-cookie truth-bombs does not cinematographic conversation make) and the other is the love interest!
She gets to say things too, whenever Doctor Strange needs an emotional reaction beat. She also gets to sigh, and be sad, and look worried, and look determined. She even gets to tear up!!
The very best bit was learning just how the studio rationalized turning the Very Tibetan character of the Supreme Sorcerer into a white lady:
"Well, the character is traditionally a Tibetan male, but Tibet won't play well in China, and we didn't want to make the Supreme Sorcerer a "26-year-old leather-clad fanboy dream girl" because we wanted diversity."
That somebody gave decision-makers of this caliber a whole movie's worth of budget to play with tells me a lot more about the pharmaceutical industry in Los Angeles than I ever wanted to know.
The wonderful Benedict Wong was stuck as the Ur-librarian with the original humorless biblio-funk, but Chiwetel Ejiofor did his very best Royal Shakespeare, and he and Cumberbatch between them have more charisma in their little toes than a whole summer's worth of blockbusters.
It was boom-boom, popcorn, a little snark, with action sequences so deliriously kaleidoscopic that they must have needed heavy medication to even visualize - as for story-boarding them, possibly migraines and a rest-cure.
It was pretty. It was fun. And the climax of the whole fun-house upside-down mirror-ride was a privileged, 1-percent white guy flying into the heart of absolute evil, and standing nose to nose with the face of scorched-earth selfishness and telling it to GO AWAY.
He died for it, of course. And then he got up to die again. He went down over and over and over, dying in a million terrible, painful ways, and every single time he got back up - doggedly, tirelessly, willingly-
Until he wore down even the embodiment of ego and "I want," and then Doctor Strange took back the world. All of it.
I'm almost certainly reading too much into this, but right now it's an image I need right now. I'll take it and I'll keep it. It was a good movie.