I did not really get into comics as a kid. I was into the nerdiest stuff I could get my hands on, but comics were still sort of off limits. For one, the cost was a little prohibitive, and for 2 there was that insidious ‘comic books are for boys’ or ‘for people who didn’t read as well as others’ floating around in the back of my brain. Of course we know both those ideas are total BS, but me being the sensitive little shit I was, I didn’t need one more thing to be teased about. And so I missed out on comics. Oh I secretly coveted the brilliantly coloured covers and longed to look inside them – or to go inside the comic book store that was frequented by the nerdiest of nerds, the uncoolest of the uncool – a social suicide if ever there had been one.
But now is another story. I preface this review with this little factoid, because I waned to show that I knew little about the story of Doctor Strange before I walked into the theatre beyond the fact that Benedict Cumberbatch and Mads Mikkelsen were in it. It may just be that I like saying Benedict Cumberbatch’s name, but it isn’t. Truly. I am a Sherlock fan – have been ever since I read the Sign of the Four when I was eleven, so Cumberbatch came into my sphere that way. When I found out that he was cast as Doctor Strange, a figure I had seen in passing, I felt the movie was going to be worth seeing for more than just the visual fest it was undoubtedly going to be. And let’s face it Mads can convey incredible amounts of emotion without saying a word so I had high hopes for a complex villain.
So J and I went to the theatre with our popcorn and were prepared to be entertained. And we were. Mostly.
Cumberbatch did a good job being Steven Strange – the arrogant surgeon crumbling before our eyes and the becoming a slightly less arrogant, but still cocky sorcerer. I loved the visual effects, but there were a few things I had issue with. One; that Tilda was the Ancient One. I mean, kudos to the production for trying to up the lady count, but why a white one? Why could the ancient one not have been a TIBETAN female? I don’t know the white washing was deliberate, but it’s something I see over and over again and it’s old.
The second was Mads character: Kaecilius. Perhaps some of his motivation was left on the cutting room floor, but I felt like he was not given the attention he deserved to be a true threat. The Dark Dimension was the real threat and Kaecilius the mere messenger but it was frustrating to see Mikkelsen explain, with tears pooling in his eyes, that he was trying to save humanity with this cataclysmic dimensional invitation he’d given to the cosmos and we don’t know why. We’re told he lost his family, but that felt like an afterthought. It would have been better to have a flashback, however brief. The conflict with Kaecilius was not nearly as interesting as the potential conflict with Mordo that came to a head at the end. Perhaps it’s that I didn’t know the story going in, but I’m sure I’m not the only one that felt the potential was missed.