I’m feeling kinda Larry David about Doctor Strange.
Let me explain.
Marvel Studios latest project, Doctor Strange, premieres this weekend. Marvel has not made a bad movie yet, is starting to build towards what could conceivably be the end of their universe as we know it and Strange is set to be a big part of present and the future. There is an excellent chance he is the next Iron Man.
There is also a great chance Marvel has overplayed its hand, and the dealer will hit 21 when the pop culture powerhouse goes all in on a project as they have with Doctor Strange. The house, eventually, wins. Here are just a few of the challenges facing this latest comic book adaptation:
- After being superkicked into oblivion with allegations of ‘whitewashing’ it’s characters, Doctor Strange has an uphill social battle to climb.
- Marvel has to convince again an audience largely unfamiliar with a title character that the movie and plot are at least $300M worth of cool.
- Marvel has succeeded with taking a lesser known character and making it relevant with Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, but how many times can this work?
- Arguably the toughest mountain to summit is going to be convincing audiences that this isn’t going to be as confusing as Inception, despite looking exactly like Inception.
For watching Doctor Strange grapple with these issues and for many others, I am pumped to see this movie. For reasons I will get into below, I’m not sure if that means this movie will be great or not good at all.
I am a big fan of Marvel Comics in all forms – television, comics, video games, and movies. If there were some other way to get Marvel Comics content pumping through my veins, I would consider it.
I am incredibly hard on myself when it comes to pop culture choices. I both set the bar too high for things my gut is telling me will be bad and don’t let myself get hyped up for the things I want to like. Example: I watched almost all of Low Winter Sun because I believe in AMC. I don’t want this to be Marvel’s Low Winter Sun.
While this fixation makes me a good enough movie previewer/reviewer because I can see the potential in any film, it makes me a terrible movie-goer as I go in with expectations set by my “all movies are magic” attitude.
“Did you have fun at the movies, Padraic?”
“I have no idea.”
That’s a real conversation I’ve had in the last week. Infuriating, I know.
I have no idea if I’m excited for Doctor Strange. Here are my top five concerns:
Concern One: Despite reading thousands of comic books in my life, I know almost nothing about the character Doctor Strange. When I was a kid, I thought he looked like a nerd and that stuck. Has Marvel Studios somehow made him cooler or will this 30-year-old judgment hold true?
Concern Two: The cool things I do know about Doctor Strange almost assuredly won’t be in the movie. In recent years Doctor Strange was part of the Illuminati, had an R-Rated comic book series run as part of Marvel’s Marvel Knights line, and battled a pretty crazy looking demon named Dormammu, the Dread One. All of these factors sound like great things to include in a franchise starter, yet I’m nearly sure none of it will be in this film.
Concern Three: Where is this on the scale between The Matrix and The Matrix Revolutions? Maybe the most important question you can ask about any movie. The Matrix was an experience that changed the way movies are watched and the way DVDs were constructed while The Matrix Revolutions was the cinematic equivalent of realizing you lost all your money in a three-card monte game. Knowing where this movie falls on the scale is very, very important.
Concern Four: Benedict Cumberbatch is a fantastic actor with a struck-out-looking track record with American accents. His Boston accent wasn’t as bad as Kevin Costner’s in Thirteen Days, but it also wasn’t good at all in Black Mass. Giving it the biggest benefit of the doubt, I waver between it being irredeemable and just an overly enthusiastic character performance. Who knows, maybe this is the most amazing mimicry in the history of cinema and as it turns out I just don’t like the sound of Billy Bulger’s voice, either.
Concern Five: Is Rachel McAdams in this movie or just in the trailer? Rachel McAdams has been busy turning in fantastic performances for the last ten years and now that she finally made it to the cash machine that is a Marvel franchise, I’d like to see in her a role that earns her a fleet of boats. If not, I’d like to understand why they wasted the best part of Mean Girls on a bit character-part that could have gone to any other actress on the planet.
Having said this, I have already purchased my tickets for tomorrow night and will be seeing Doctor Strange in all of its mind-bending-Christopher-Nolan-esque-spoon-bending-there-is-no-spoon glory. I think I’m excited. I might be excited. I’m not sure I’m excited.
The jury is still out.