Day 50. 161 pages, 58,131 words.
Yes, this post title was specifically set up to pick the low-hanging fruit (or in this case vegetable) of Benedict Cumberbatch’s name. But it’s totally also a theatrical reference, so I think I should get a pass.
Anyway, the other night we went out to see Marvel’s latest offering, Doctor Strange.
We already knew, of course, that Marvel had balls of solid vibranium when it came to realising their comic book characters (already pretty envelope-pushing) into movie roles. Rocket and Groot made DC’s hand-wringing over Wonder Woman look famously silly, and the careless addition of Ant-Man, Black Panther, The Collector and any number of others … in fact, ever since Captain America and Thor became movie reality, it’s been pretty obvious that Marvel wasn’t going to shy away from the wackier and more wonderful side of their universe. Although okay, they could have a few more female heroes, because Black Widow, Scarlet Witch and Gamora aren’t much more than a good start.
So, really, Doctor Strange was just reaffirmation of that mission statement, and shouldn’t have come as any great surprise.
Speaking as an essentially null-zero fan of the comic book version – I plead complete ignorance – I really quite liked it.
Even though Spidey wasn’t there. Yet.
I think the whole basic foundation was a bit … well, strange, but that absolutely works. I enjoyed the idea that what ordinary people think of as “reality” is really just one tiny layer of a much deeper multiverse. I liked the way the other realms, like Asgard, folded neatly into the premise. And yes, I even liked the (horribly whitewashed made-up character who Stan Lee and Steve Ditko decided would be Asian in 1963) Ancient One.
This was actually filmed without any special effects at all. When Tilda Swinton tells you she’s going to slap your astral form right out of your body, she’s not even slightly exaggerating.
Nobody took my trollbait last time (I’m so proud of you!), so I’ll just say “hmm, yeah, I guess instead of a goofy not-really-Celtic Ancient One we could have gone with the original imagining of the character, that would have been much less offensive” and leave it at that.
Mmmmm. Smells like social justice.
Anyhoo, on with the show.
The curtain goes up on a nicely brief and by-the-numbers origin story that is still quite compelling and occasionally rough to watch. Doctor Stephen Strange is a renowned neurosurgeon and a bit of a superstar in that way doctors actually probably should be in real life, except they never quite are. Very much in the mould of House M.D., in fact, but way more famous and sexy.
“It actually was lupus. But it’s okay, I looked deeply and soulfully into its eyes and it promised to straighten up, stop being lupus, and just be a dose of hyper-orgasmic crotchular sensitivity from now on.”
After being a smarmy jerk-arse for about fifteen minutes, Strange (that’s Doctor Strange to you, and indeed to basically everyone, even über-powerful interplanar entities of unspeakable power who think “Mister Doctor” is a thing) has a nasty accident, gets his hands mutilated and becomes self-destructively obsessed with, paradoxically, fixing himself.
After learning of the Ancient One from a dude who had suffered paralysis and gone on to become fully mobile once more (spoiler: turns out he was drawing magic out of the cosmic wossname and/or Dungeon Dimensions to make himself whole on an ongoing basis, but he was basically harmless), Doctor Strange goes to Kamar-Taj where he meets Mordo, also known as the Alliance Operative from Serenity. I’m going to pretend that Chiwetel Ejiofor was playing the same character in both movies, because he fucking rules.
 This is what I’m calling them from now on, as a tip of the hat to the late Sir Terry Pratchett.
 Did you know Chiwetel Ejiofor is an anagram of footie rich jewel? This may not mean anything right now, but I’m pretty sure it’s a clue about the Infinity Stones and the part Mordo is going to play in bringing them all together. In fact, if you open the name out to Chiwetel Mordo Ejiofor, you end up with chowtime frijole rodeo, which doesn’t make much sense either but when you take into account that frijole is Spanish for beans, and imagine that maybe the Infinity Stones are like beans … okay look, it’s a work in progress.
Doctor Strange has a rather hackneyed Yoda-and-Luke-esque introduction and nearly-but-not-quite rejection at the beginning of his training that somehow still manages to seem original and compelling, and starts along the road to becoming a better, and then ultimately a transcendently bullplopulent, person.
“Can you show us on the doll, Doctor Strange, where the Ancient One touched you inappropriately?”
Doctor Strange and Mordo the Operative have a training montage and become a classic Grizzled Lone Wolf / Rookie Cop / Stickler For The Rules / Loose Cannon combo.
“Okay, Chiwetel … for this scene, you need to imagine that the green screen behind you is the Chief’s office, and he’s taking your character off the case even though he gets results. Your motivation is … I’m gonna say … the letter of the law. Benedict, your motivation is that your character can only achieve time travel if he forms a perfect flux capacitor out of the lines of his eyebrows and nose, and if he succeeds he gets to go home wearing that cape tonight.”
Amusing character-growth and skill-development and beautifully vivid and psychedelic reality-bending training, not to mention hilarious scenes with Wong the Librarian ensue, until the almost-but-not-quite-ready Doctor Strange is confronted by the bad guys and his little haven of learny is torn out from under him at the hands of Le Chiffre.
 You want to hear something really trippy? The character Wong is played by an actor whose name is Benedict Wong. Benedict. Wong. COINCIDENCE? I THINK NOT!
Le Chiffre, no longer content to bleed out of his eye-holes, has gone full X-Men Origins: Wolverine Deadpool on that shit.
From there, the stakes get steadily higher and higher, there’s a wonderful amount of choreographed and upside-down-inside-out-backwards-in-time destruction, and Doctor Strange winds up saving the wibby-wobbly, timey-wimey day against a great big huge scary not-Thanos from the Dungeon Dimensions.
Mordo the Operative then nerve-cluster-punches that paralysed guy I was talking about at the beginning of the review, and instead of making him fall onto a sword, steals his magic and declares that there are too many Sorcerers. Which is baloney because I think there are exactly the right number of Sorcerers.
Yeah, this was a kick-arse movie and heaps of fun. My only complaint, if you can even call it a complaint, is that the credits-teasers should have been the other way around. I already knew Mordo the Operative was going to turn into a bad guy or at least some sort of enemy to Doctor Strange. That wasn’t really worth waiting all the way until the end of the credits for. What was interesting and worth waiting for, was the Thor-Odin-Loki-Strange collision, which promises wonderful things for the next round of movies (not to mention fitting the theme of Marvel movies having an interconnection-teaser at the end).
Maybe they were just mixing things up a bit this time. Either way, this was amazing and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
I also managed to avoid yelling out “MUUUURPH” in the middle of a crowded cinema when Doctor Strange was flailing his way through ur-dimensional space. So I call it a win.