Mar 28, 2018

The MCU Roundtable: Doctor Strange

If you’re anything like us, than you were blown away when the first Avengers: Infinity War trailer dropped.  The extended Comics Cube family was so excited that we have decided to embark upon a full re-watch of the Marvel Studios film series.  Every week we are going to watch and provide a roundtable discussion about each Marvel movie in release order.  Next, the debut of Benedict Cumberbatch in the Marvel Cinematic Universe!

Countdown to Avengers: Infinity War
Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange was released on November 4, 2016 and made $85 million on its opening weekend.  It ended its theatrical run at $233 million in the United States and $678 million total worldwide.



DUY: Ultimately, I liked the film and thought it was good enough for its job... but it could have been better.

TRAVIS: I've seen it suggested the film was originally going to tell its story nonlinearly, with the various "deaths" of Dr. Strange as a throughline. That would have removed the most tedious aspect for me, which was the getting anywhere business, and it could have made the rest of the movie feel genuinely heady and exciting. And you might not have noticed how dumb the villain was, as quickly.

JD: There are character moments in this that should feel bigger. When Stephen makes his way back from Mount Everest, I think Cumberbatch should have gone farther and made it really emotional. That bugged me a lot the second time I watched it.

BEN: It's the only MCU movie I've watched once.

JEFF: I enjoyed the movie. Unfortunately it was too predictable and felt very much like a by-the-numbers origin movie. I liked Cumberbatch as Strange and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo and it has some good action sequences, but when I look at this in comparison to the rest of the MCU it feels like one of the weaker movies they've put out. I enjoyed Strange's small part in Thor: Ragnarok more than I enjoyed him in this movie, which fits with how I've enjoyed him in comics over the years. I like him as a guest star or on a team more than headlining his own book. That said, I still enjoyed it more then what DC has been doing.

JD: I think the acting was pretty stellar despite that by-the-numbers feel. That's probably the good casting coming through. I love Tilda Swinton in everything she's in and I thought it was a bold choice. She's done androgynous at least once before as an angel in Constantine.

I enjoyed the movie. Unfortunately it was too predictable and felt very much like a by-the-numbers origin movie. -Jeff

TRAVIS: There is, weirdly, precedent for the Ancient One appearing white for the sake of a white bigot (Anthony Ludgate, aka Anthony Druid/Druid). I still don't buy "But, China!" on the casting, as a) both theatets I saw it in blew up over any Asian appearing at any time, and b) China was at that time, deep in a government-sponsored celebration of Tibetan artists, actors, and creative talents.

DUY: It's also made clear that she's just the latest in a long line of Ancient Ones. And personally I'd rather have her kicking ass than an old man. It's an easy out, the same way Valkyrie in Ragnarok isn't Brunnhilde.

MATT: I'm rewatching it and, man, they make Stephen unbearable before going to Nepal. He's not much better when he's there. I didn't mind the Ancient One casting (nor Mordo, which I suspect was a bigger deal in the racist-er parts of the internet) since they were at least upfront that Tilda was a Celt. I feel like it's good, not particularly strong, so a bit of upper part of the bottom third of movies. I feel like the images they tried to go for were either stunning (the clearly Ditko parts) or repetitive (the space folding/floor moving). I particularly like that they saved Mordo's turn for a later installment.

SAMANTHA: I liked the movie overall; I’m also pretty proud of the fact that I actually found an Easter egg before looking them up. Turning down Rhodesy’s back surgery because it was too easy? Dick!

MATT: I had the same chuckle too! Watching these back to back does have its benefits

PETER: Wait, is it confirmed that they were referring to Rhodey regarding the back surgery? Wow! Someone was telling me that when we came out of the cinema and I just dismissed it. Damn casual fans now know more than I do!

SAMANTHA: It was so low I almost missed it! I was watching it on Netflix when I heard little snippets of what the guy on the phone was saying. I had to rewind it to confirm!

MATT: Yeah, 35-year-old (which Rhodey is definitely too old to really be based on how Don looks in HD), spinal cord, fell in a field. It clicks.

PETER: Perhaps I set my expectations too high for this. I really like the Dr. Strange character but it's probably because I have fond memories of reading the original Lee/Ditko series as a child. To be honest, I don't recall reading many other Dr. Strange comics after that. I only read the Aaron/Bachalo series a few months ago. I also quite like many of the actors in the movie. Cumberbatch, of course, and Swinton, Ejiofor, Mikelsen, Wong, etc. Overall, I really enjoyed this movie and I'd gladly rewatch it but for me it never hits the level of the top MCU movies like Winter Soldier and Avengers.

DUY: So I think we've all said that something is missing in this movie to prevent it from really breaking out. How would we fix this? What exactly, to each of us, is missing?

MATT: I think they leaned too hard into Strange being a total dick. It is basically the Iron Man formula, but amped up a bit and it just doesn't work. More Wong wouldn't hurt either.

DUY: It is pretty much the Iron Man model, beat for beat. I think one thing I think about is that if this movie came out in 2008, it probably would have been huge.

TRAVIS: More Wong and Christine. A better pacing and arc. Don't be afraid to go spooky woooOoooOoo! more often. Making this try to fit as action/adventure just makes it toothless.

MATT: Yeah, they could lean into the temptation of Dormammu and lose Kaecilius. The Ancient One can still die and Mordo turn, but it’s a tonally different movie.

TRAVIS: Mordo's turn came out of nowhere and only makes sense because he was only the flimsiest representation of a person, anyway. Like they needed him to be "good" in a sequel or to save face.

MATT: You get told a lot more than shown for motivation, with the exception of maybe Wong (though it’s his predecessor getting offed) and Strange (who is a dick).

It is basically the Iron Man formula, but amped up a bit and it just doesn't work. -Matt

DUY: Anyone else think the Time Stone being introduced in a movie with blatant watch product placement is a bit much?

TRAVIS: These are pretty much toy-selling movies.

DUY: A watch is not a toy, unless you're Peter Turingan, or if your watch turns into a robot.

PETER: Hey! They're tiny mechanical works of art that you can wear. I want to add that I wholeheartedly approve of the gratuitous watch shots in the movie. I'm a watch fan AND a fan of the Jaeger-LeCoultre brand in particular so I didn't mind the minor supporting role played by the gorgeous JLC Master Ultra Thin watch in the story. Not so subtle product placement there but, heh, I like the product!

TRAVIS: I've never wanted Deadpool to be digitally inserted into a movie as much as I do right now. And, some ultra cheese, "Know what time it is?" smartass.

DUY: He wears watches throughout the movie, at the end of the day he whips up a magic watch to trap Dormammu, it's brilliant.

He wears watches throughout the movie, at the end of the day he whips up a magic watch to trap Dormammu, it's brilliant. -Duy

TRAVIS: I'd forgot how dumb the magic was, too. All point and shoot. Sling rings are worse than gratuitous watch porn.

DUY: And where is the ILY hand gesture?

TRAVIS: There's the made-for-TV 70s movie, and the 80s movie that was already in production (with Jack Kirby designs) when they lost the name rights, and they're both still more fun, funny, and big-time than this mega-budget movie with its big name actors and its fancy watches.

DUY: The falling buildings thing would have been more impressive if I never saw Inception.

JD: If Dr. Strange did come out in '08, does Inception still do that?

DUY: That's a good question. Now I want to watch Inception again.

TRAVIS: It was just more visually boring than any acid trippy shamanic movie I can think of. Even the Blueberry movie is trippier, if you want to limit it to comics-based flicks. Oooh the buildings move hasn't been exciting since the Crocodile Dundee movie poster where they bend like grass.

DUY: This is a movie where the humor is misplaced. Could have stood to be more serious. Strange putting on the cloak with this dramatic music after the Ancient One bites it, and... then the cloak tries wiping off the blood. It's funny. But it undercuts everything.

MATT: I think the movie we made up where Kaecilius isn't the villain, but the temptation of Dormammu is would work better. The funny bits with Beyonce and the cape having a personality (cough Aladdin rip-off cough) could still work. As could the Ancient One's sacrifice. It's a more cerebral movie, which is a genre Marvel has not really attempted. There could still be fights and magic and world bending, it would just be different. I would also say the mid-credits scene with Thor is another in the trend of the Phase 3 movies using clips of future movies in them (Ant-Man having a scene from Civil War jumping out in my mind). It's more jarring because of the crazy Dr. Strange Gloves than anything.

DUY: How safe would you say the casting of Cumberbatch is? I feel that the most breakout castings we've had in the MCU have been guys we were skeptical of or guys we'd never even heard of.

JD: Weren't the early rumors suggesting Johnny Depp was in talks for the role?

DUY: Johnny Depp? I don't know if that's safer or riskier

DUY: Jeff, were you the one who said this movie takes place early on in the MCU? It's at least after the formation of the Avengers -- the tower is in the skyline

JEFF: I did say that in the Winter Soldier discussion. His name was an Easter egg in the targets.

DUY: I'm not sure how the timeline works here. This takes place after Avengers and presumably soon after Civil War (War Machine's injury is mentioned). But Panther takes place exactly a week after Civil War and over just a few days, and this one seems to take way longer.

JEFF: Time stone. Wibbely wobbely, timey whimey

DUY: Who wins the Val Kilmer Award for the movie?

TRAVIS: Benedict Wong killed the audience both times I saw this in the theater.

MATT: Wong is strong, the weird thing for me is how no one really stands out. They are too often kind of flat. Not Wong.

JD: The cape. The cape wins the Val Kilmer Award.

DUY: Comic recommendations for Dr. Strange?

TRAVIS: Dr. Strange, Sorcerer Supreme (it's entire '88 to '96 run), and the mini Mark Waid and Emma Rios blessed us with.

DUY: Is it too much to ask that the director of the sequel reads Steve Ditko's run, watches Ragnarok, and says, what Ragnarok did to Kirby, he wants to do with Ditko. Is it?


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