NEWBIES: If this is your first trip here (welcome!), here’s the QT on what these reviews are. THIS WEEK: Otter-faced heartthrob Benedict “Sherlock” Cumberbatch joins the Marvel Universe as the Sorcerer Supreme! Brilliant-but-dickish surgeon Stephen Strange loses his surgical abilities and travels to Nepal for help from Tilda “Not an old Asian dude” Swinton, aka The Ancient One, after one of her former disciples steals a spell to bring down the world.
Written by Jon Spaihts and Scott Derrickson & C. Robert Cargill. Directed by Scott Derrickson.
Where do I start? Yeah, the effects were great as you’d expect, but this is like INCEPTION on gamma-radiated ‘roids. The visuals are both mind-blowing and perfect for the character/story. (From MIKE: Think M.C. Escher in moving, Technicolor 3-D.) From start to finish, it’s one amazing visual spectacle and treat after another, but with enough “normal” scenes to let you breathe and appreciate the rest of the weirdness.
Casting: Cumberbitches rejoice! The Benedict is the perfect Strange. Rather than go all P.C. and make him a half-Eskimo, half-gay and half-hermaphrodite, Strange is his same old American comic self, right down to the grayed temples and Mandrake-thin van dyke. The actor nails the US accent perfectly, almost as well as he nails the personality of the character. (Some might gripe he acts like his Sherlock character, but there’s a noticeable difference. Cumberbun is just great at playing likable a-holes.)
Despite the race and gender change, Swinton is perfectly believable as her character, even if there’s no explanation on how a bald Anglo chick ended up running an ancient Asian joint. She’s all-powerful and all-knowing without being all-annoying. (And there are other Asian characters to fill the gap.)
Rachel McAdams is fine as Doc’s love interest Christine, even if she seems made up just for the flick. She’s a hottie and a good actor so nocomplaints (though I always get her mixed up with Amy Adams).
Geek stuff from Mike: Mordo was not a Baron, and didn’t resemble the unibrowed, light-skinned, weirdly-bearded oddball from the comics, but he still reminded me of a Steve Ditko character, and Chiwetel Ejiofor is a great actor who pulled it off well. He’s not the evil student from the comics, plotting to kill the Ancient One, either, but there’s a refreshing twist.
More Geek stuff: So many details from the comics, it was a blast: the sanctum in Greenwich Village with the Ditko symbol on the window, the Eye of Agamotto, the astral forms, the levitating cloak, the designs, and more. My inner 12-year-old was thrilled.
Same comedy and light-hearted moments you’d expect from Marvel movies, even though the story and subject matter didn’t lend itself as much to it. (Kind of like the Thor film—highfalutin but with some puns and gags thrown in to keep parts from being too heavy. Some might feel forced but others were genuine LOL moments.)
Great battle scenes, sets, locations, swords, weapons, magic spells and use of both makeup and FX for everything, like Strange’s hands after his accident, the astral projections, buildings, interiors, ancient books and so on.
MIKE: Cameos and credits: Stan the Man in a train reading a book, mention of S.H.I.E.L.D. and more; Stan and Steve Ditko full credit, and then a bunch of thank-yous including Gene Colan, Roy Thomas and other creators (but, for some unknown reason, no Frank Brunner! WTH?).
Two buttons! One after the main credits that might tie in to THOR: RAGNAROK and one at the very end to whet the appetite for the stranger Strange sequel.
Geek stuff from Mike: no mention or allusion (that I could find) of Clea, Strange’s original sweetheart. (Maybe they didn’t want to give Ditko any more dough?)
Also, Dormammu was bigger than Galactus, and they pronounced it differently than I’m used to (“dor-MOM-mu” instead of “DOR-ma-mu”) so it sounded weird to me.
Didn’t hear any mention of “the Vishanti” or “hoary hosts of Hoggoth” either. No trademark Ditko “devil horns” hand position when casting spells (except once—kinda).
And of course, they clipped the collar on his cloak so he could actually see left and right. But minor stuff.
A few minor Suspension Of Disbelief Dept. moments: If two astral forms that can pass through walls are fighting each other, how could they knock each other into said walls and other objects in the room, making the same sound effects their corporeal bodies normally would—as well as making the same wind-knocked-out sounds like “oof!” and such? That was weird.
Also, when a car careens off a bridge, bounces off stuff and flips over a bunch of times, not even Batman is going to survive.
Main gripe: it wasn’t long enough! I don’t mean time-wise (which was over two hours) but I enjoyed the story so much I wanted even more, and to see what would happen next!
You’ll want to watch this again, not just for the Easter eggs and in-jokes but because it’s a worthy story. And the extras on any disc would add watchability value fer sure. But you should see it on the big screen too—the bigger the better. I got gypped seeing in a “baby IMAX” so you can just see it in DFX for lower price. But the 3-D actually worked well in many scenes so I don’t think it’s a rip-off. Enjoy it soon and often.
P.S.: Put some Strange on your wall! Grab yourself some cool ART hand-drawn by Pascale hisself. Heroes, babes, badguys, your pals, pets, cars, whoever and whatever. Just ask Craig here!
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of Wednesday’s Heroes, Mike Pascale, dickish doctors, gender-neutral sorcerers, Asians, magicians, Asian magicians, Rachel McAdams, Amy Adams, Isla Fisher, and other ginger actresses with cute bods. Bru wonders…Does a sorcerer supreme come with extra meat and guacamole?