Dr Strange came to Sky Movies this weekend, so I watched it for the first time since the cinema. It’s not great, is it?
The visual effects are still amazing, even squeezed onto a TV, and the finale in Hong Kong and the Dark Dimension works well. But setting aside the visual spectacle, it’s all pretty flat. Aside from a few of the jokes, the script is quite dull and Cumberbatch does nothing to help. In fact, his sub-Laurie mumbling kills dead a few moments that should have been better and he often feels like he’s holding his half of conversations in a different film to everyone else. Ejiofor and occasionally Swinton (in her death scene especially) do much more to add elevate their dialogue, about 90% of which is turgid exposition. The direction, outside of the effects, isn’t great either. Take the scene where Strange finds out about Pangborn from his physio. The whole conversation is paced like it’s meant to be strung into a montage as bits rather than as an actual conversation. The cadence of the delivery and the rhythm of the actors just feels so false.
For me the big problem is that there’s not enough to Strange himself. Cumberbatch sleepwalks through half the film, but even setting that aside, it’s thin. They go to great lengths to make him seem like a dick early on, but there’s little to go with it. A half-hearted attempt at sentimentality with the watch, the photographic memory trivia buff thing, which just feels like an excuse to accelerate his tutelage, but once you strip away the arrogance there’s… nothing. The whole running gag with him trying to make Wong laugh doesn’t work, because he’s not funny at any other time. His moral outrage at having been dragged into a mystic war feels utterly false, especially when hung on his Hippocratic oath when it’s been made clear he’s a doctor more interested in personal glory and prestige than his patients. Strange is neither charming and likeable nor does he seem particularly driven by any sense of personal conviction after his fall. He just gets humbled a few times and then does the right thing mainly because the plot demands it of him and the world’s ending.
I just found myself kinda bored through most of the film, waiting for the finale. I hope Strange’s next appearances actually find an angle on him which makes him interesting as a character.