Doctor Strange (2016)

Doctor Strange
Director: Scott Derrickson
Writer: Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
Based on: the comic character created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Cast: Benedict CumberbatchChiwetel EjioforRachel McAdamsBenedict WongMads MikkelsenTilda SwintonMichael StuhlbargBenjamin BrattScott Adkins, Stan Lee
Part of: Marvel movies
Seen on: 8.11.2016

Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a great neurosurgeon, and he knows it. But after a car accident that leaves him severely injured, Strange loses control of his hands – a skill absolutely necessary for his delicate job. He tries everything he can to get back to his former abilities. He is so desperate that when he hears of Jonathan Pangborn’s (Benjamin Bratt) apparently miraculous recovery, he asks him for the secret to it. Pangborn tells him of an temple in Nepal where they know about magic. Strange makes his way there, hoping to regain what he lost – and more.

If you manage to disregard the blatant racism in the film and its casting (and I can understand if you can’t manage this), Doctor Strange is an entertaining film that offers a lot of fun.

Much has been made of the casting choices for Doctor Strange that led to a film that draws heavily on the “Asian wisdom” stereotype and has a large part of the film actually play in Nepal but has one (1) Asian actor play a noteworthy role (Benedict Wong). It was one of the most misguided attempts to escape the racist orientalism of the original comic that they could possibly come up with. Instead of subverting said orientalism or have pretty much everybody in the film be Asian(-American), thus avoiding the exclusively stereotypical roles of Asian characters, they decided to erase Asians pretty much entirely. It goes so far that when Stephen is mugged on the streets of Kathmandu, not one of his muggers is Nepalese/Asian. It is weird, ridiculous and simply another form of racism instead of a solution. The outright whitewashing of The Ancient One (played by Tilda Swinton) is only the whipped cream on top of the entire crapfest here.

I could appreciate Tilda Swinton in the role she gives her usual otherworldliness. Mads Mikkelsen and Chiwetel Eijiofor are great (and hot) as always. Cumberbatch was restrained enough to make his turn enjoyable. It’s not their performances that have to be criticized, but their casting in the first place (and their acceptance of the roles, particularly Swinton).

Since I’m a white person, I had a comparatively easy time to look past the racism. And the film does have a nice sense of humor. I loved the cloak – it’s amazing how much personality can be put into a piece of fabric. And the film was laugh out loud funny more than once. And the special effects were great, especially when they took the action to the city.

If only they had managed to include actual Asian people in the making of this film, which would have probably led them to different solutions regarding the racism and if only they had included more than sidelined female characters, I might have enjoyed and recommended it without reservations. But no such luck.

Summarizing: Racist, but still charming in places.


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