I recently saw Marvel Studios’ “Doctor Strange” this past weekend, and while the movie itself, with the majority of the film being an acid trip into the glorious potential of VFX effects, was an enjoyable experience, there was one thing that completely threw me off in terms of characterization: the title character himself. Going into the film, my expectations of the character were high: a brilliant neurosurgeon, trying to find his place in the world after a car crash ruined his career, who then delves into the mystic arts and becomes the magical protector of this world. Instead my expectations were shattered and I was in severe confusion because he literally puts the “strange” in Doctor Strange.
To start with my analysis, I went into the theater with the initial notion that the protagonist was an acclaimed and respected neurosurgeon. He was indeed a doctor, but instead he is portrayed as a dermatologist who is obsessed with all notions of the skin, especially with scabs and pimples. Strange even has an affectionate relationship with an infected-looking wart, which honestly threw off all the serious scenes because he would just rub it affectionately out of nowhere. He showed more love to the wart than to Rachel McAdams’ character, who had much cleaner skin, and, for budget constraints, is not a skin blemish. That wasn’t even the only thing on his body, as I saw two tattoos on his body during the movie: a tattoo of bleachers just running along his thighs and back, and then a pair of yellow gloves on his right triceps. There was absolutely no explanation for the tattoos, not even a snarky joke that would call us back to why he had them in the first place. They were just there. And you know what else was there? A sea lamprey. It was literally sucking on his calf muscle for a majority of the film and it just appeared on his leg 20 minutes into the film with no context whatsoever. He’d be petting the lamprey WHILE rubbing the wart and no one would say a word about the fact that a parasitic mammal was sucking the color out of his face.
And even during these serious scenes, I couldn’t understand a single word he said! He wasn’t even speaking English, or any language for that matter. He only spoke in some weird pseudo-language mashup of Hungarian and Swahili and he was speaking it WAY before he became a sorcerer. But the worst part of it was this: Every single person in the film could linguistically understand him even though his tone would sporadically change at random points during the conversation. The other characters wouldn’t even notice the fluctuations. During a somber scene, he would be screaming at them in the dialect, yet the character’s tone or facial expressions wouldn’t even change.
His superhero costume didn’t even make any sense. Instead of coming out with his magic cloak or metal eye (I’m sure there are mystical names for these things), he comes out in a skin suit costume, its only color being periwinkle. That wasn’t the only thing though. He wore these vintage Dutch wooden clogs that he would annoyingly run around in; there was this chance sequence through a time-distorted New York, and all I can remember was just the sound of those clogs stomping through the scene for seven minutes. I don’t know if they took a note from the soundtrack of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but all the music for the movie was played on Strange’s iPod Nano, with the music being one theme: obscure songs from famous boy bands (pretty much tracks 8-12 from every album).
Though many superhero movies have a protagonist working together with another hero, the sidekick in this film wasn’t what you would think it would be. Instead of a performance by Chiwetel Ejiofor, there was…a magically floating dead ferret. Doctor Strange would be talking to the ferret, cracking jokes with it and telling it about his personal life, and there wouldn’t be a single response from it, unless you count the dead flesh that was falling off the ferret’s corpse or the flies buzzing around it as a response. These mannerisms and ridiculous traits that Doctor Strange possessed took away from the enjoyment of the movie for me, as I sat there in utter confusion and despair at trying to figure out why anyone would rely on this man to save them. I would harbor so much resentment for Marvel….but goddammit, the special effects were mind-blowing. Score: 10/10, a must-see!