I went to see Dr Strange expecting a brainless sci fi shoot ‘em up adventure. And while it is all that, I should have known there would be more to it, since Cumberbatch stars. He IS the modern Sherlock, instilled a demonic but compelling personality to the animated Smaug, and did a stage Hamlet different and still wonderful from the dozen I’ve seen before.
Without giving away too much I would encourage you, before you go see the movie, to read just a little teeny bit of GK Chesterton’s poem The Ballad of the White Horse. White Horse is an epic poem (arguably the last written in the English language) published in 1911 and written by GK Chesterton, the lesser known friend and Christian docent of the famous CS “Narnia” Lewis. The poem is about the legendary exploits of Saxon king Alfred the Great as he expels the Viking Danes from England in the 9th century. But you don’t have to read the whole thing. The portion that will exploit a deeper appreciation of Dr Strange is a 4 line stanza in Book III titled “The Harp of Alfred”, lines 339 through 342. You can even get it online. The lines begin:
“Though all lance’s split….”
You won’t know why that is important until you get to the right moment and then you’ll instantly understand.
Dr Strange is beautifully filmed and CGI’ed. While I’m not a big 3D fan, the effects in this were quite good. They did NOT look like they had been shoe-horned in to be SURE you noticed them, as they did in the old ‘50’s “house of horror” type movies or in the first few movies that restarted the trend. Movies like 47 Ronin and Avatar seemed to have some scenes filmed for the EXPRESS purpose of showing off the 3D techniques. Use or AB-use of said technology always reminded me of the old SCTV routine – “3D House of Beef” – where John Candy would shove a plate of pancakes towards the camera to demonstrate the “3D” effect – which, of course, didn’t exist because it was a Canadian parody skit ABOUT such things shown on the television – which gives you an idea of how much I generally respect 3D.
BUT the 3D in Dr Strange was done well.
I actually FORGOT it was “3D” until something appropriate and unexpected sort of wafted or flew my way. Good job Scott Derrickson (director) and Ben Davis (cinematographer).
It’s also the first film I’ve ever seen Tilda Swinton in, in which she did not give me the creeps. She has played disturbing (White Witch in Narnia) REALLY disturbing (incestuous vampire in Only Lovers Left Alive) and funny, as twins Thora and Thessaly Thacker in the brilliant Coen brothers’ Hail Caesar!
But she normally gives me a creepy crawly feeling. This uneasy quality she manages to normally spray like a firehose is toned done to a slight flavoring, blending into a beautiful performance as the Sinead O’Connor-“coiffed” mentor extraordinaire, The Ancient One.
So – a little homework this time before viewing will make your experience of Dr Strange more effective and satisfying than the average super hero fare. GK Chesterton – Marvel….huh, who would have ever thought?