Doctor Strange movie review
I’ve been reading comics all my life but I’m not sure if I’ve ever read a Doctor Strange one. The Strange character was very popular in the 1960s and 1970s but in the 1980s and 1990s he was a C-level character at best. So I come at the latest Marvel movie Doctor Strange with a bit of a lack of knowledge on the character or how he should act. But Marvel has such a great track record with their films that regardless of how familiar I am with any of their characters I wanted to checkout Doctor Strange no matter what — but not enough to actually see it in the theater so I ended up picking it up on digital when it first became available last week.
Doctor Strange poster
Benedict Cumberbatch plays the title character Dr. Stephen Strange who, after an accident, loses the fine use of his hands and his entire surgical career as well. On a quest to find any solution that might fix his predicament, Strange ends up in Nepal where he stumbles upon an ancient sect of sorcerers. And after some training Strange becomes a sorcerer himself and ends up in the middle of a gigantic battle between good and evil. One one side is Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) who’s group is trying to open a gateway to let the malevolent alien god Dormammu conquer the Earth. On the other side is the “Ancient One” (Tilda Swinton) and other sorcerers like Strange trying to stop them.
The more I read what I just wrote the more I realize how thin the story of Doctor Strange really is. I’m not saying that the movie’s bad, it’s just doesn’t have a lot of real depth. What depth there is comes from the Strange character going from self-centered neurosurgeon to selfless sorcerer as well as Kaecilius and his reasoning behind trying to open the gateway for Dormammu. But otherwise, Doctor Strange is a standard good guys vs. bad guys who are trying to destroy the planet story that is the central theme of so many sci-fi/comic book movies these days. It’s a very good version of that kind of movie, but regardless it’s the standard 21st century comic book movie plot none-the-less.
It doesn’t help matters that large parts of Doctor Strange do feel like they were taken from other films like the folding cities of Inception to a serious Harry Potter vibe as well. Though, admittedly, it is hard to tell whom was borrowing from whom since all the stuff that happened in the Doctor Strange movie could have already happened in the 50+ years of Doctor Strange comics.
All that being said I enjoyed the Doctor Strange movie a great deal. Marvel movies are all paced really well and there was never a time during the film that I felt bored or that I could pause it and come back to the movie later. Someone should do a study on how Marvel movies are put together since they’re all structured to sheer perfection.
There are a few sequences in Doctor Strange that were new and unique, from Strange doing battle as his astral projection against another astral projection, essentially they’re ghosts, while he tries to help a doctor (Rachel McAdams) save his wounded body on an operating table to Strange battling Kaecilius and his zealots in a mansion and throwing them our special doors that at the turn of a knob leaves the people outside in far off deserts or forests in other parts of the world.
Ultimately, I’d say Doctor Strange is a successful comic book movie, if a bit typical of what’s come before.
The forgotten 1970s Doctor Strange movie
The release of the new Doctor Strange movie marks the eleventh movie from Marvel Studios that already includes films for characters like Thor and Captain America. While Marvel’s films have made literally billions upon billions of dollars, there’s a little secret that fans of comics know that most of the movie going public doesn’t — there was a series of films based on Marvel characters that were released in the 1970s that Marvel has wishes everyone would just forget about.
Back then, Marvel licensed several of their characters to studios in an attempt at creating TV properties. The first of these was The Amazing Spider Man in 1978.
Owing to the limitations of 1970s movie technology and smaller budgets for TV, Spider-Man, like all the other Marvel TV properties, began as a movie of the week. The original movie served as an origin story for the character of Peter Parker (Nicholas Hammond), here not a high school teen but instead his 20s, who’s bitten by a radioactive spider and is given superpowers he uses to solve crimes.
The original TV movie was popular enough that it would spawn two seasons of an The Amazing Spider-Man TV series from 1978 to 1979. Either I was too young at the time or I simply didn’t watch, but I have no memory of seeing the Nicholas Hammond version of Spider-Man on TV until the 1990s when, I believe, USA Network would air the series each year around Thanksgiving.
This 1970s costumed Spider-Man isn’t on screen very often since the movie/series mostly focuses on Peter Parker rather than Spidey. At times The Amazing Spider-Man is remarkably dull for a series based on a comic book.
The Incredible Hulk would follow Spider-Man in 1978. Starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno, The Incredible Hulk was the most successful of these 1970s Marvel TV series and ran some 80+ episodes as well as having several TV movies afterwards. Seemingly each episode of the series featured Bixby as David Banner always on the run from town to town trying to help some poor soul out of a bind before circumstances out of his control would cause him to Hulk-out (Ferrigno) and wreck some scenery before being forced to move on over dreary music and in the rain to the next town.
In 1979 two Captain America TV movies would debut with Captain America and Captain America II: Death Too Soon. This Steve Rogers (Reb Brown) is, no joke, a body-building artist who drives around in a van who’s given a serum which gives him super-abilities. Reb’s Captain America rides a motorcycle which rockets out of the back of his van and has a semi-transparent shield when he fights the bad guys.
I remember the Captain America TV movies being shown in syndication from time to time and these two movies are available on DVD.
If The Incredible Hulk were extremely popular and Captain America would get two movies, then the Doctor Strange TV movie must’ve drawn the short straw since it’s all but a lost film today.
Starring Peter Hooten in the title role, here Doctor Strange is a hospital psychiatrist who’s called to become the next “Sorcerer Supreme” in a never-ending fight against the evil forces of the universe — here personified by Morgan le Fay played by Jessica Walter later of Arrested Development fame.
It took me years to see Doctor Strange. As far as I can tell the movie only ever aired on TV a few times and while it was released on VHS Doctor Strange has so far never been available on DVD or a more modern format*. I finally saw it on a bootleg VHS tape taken from the official VHS release a few years ago.
And I can see why Doctor Strange wasn’t turned into a series — we spend a lot of time with the good doctor as a hospital physician before we get to Doctor Strange the mastery of the mystical arts. And even when we get to him a lot of the movie features Strange battling le Fay on a black velvet background void that features a soundtrack that’s part disco and part new wave.
I can only imaging the latest incarnation of Doctor Strange starring Benedict Cumberbatch will easily outdo the cheesy 1978 version of Doctor Strange and will one day be available on DVD too.
*Actually, Shout Factory has released a copy of Doctor Strange on DVD this week “remastered from original film elements.”
Direct Beam Comms #33
Vice Principals Grade: C
Vice Principals, the latest HBO series from Jody Hill and Danny McBride of Eastbound and Down fame, looks, feels and has the same tone as that earlier series. And I supposed if you really dug Eastbound and Down you’re going to really love Vice Principals too. But if you thought Eastbound and Down was just okay you’re probably not going to be that into Vice Principles.
Here, McBride plays Neal Gamby, a vice principal from hell, running his South Carolina high school like some Soviet provincial governor where he deals out rewards and punishments to the students with little regard to the consequences. Walton Goggins (Hateful Eight) plays another vice principal Lee Russell who doesn’t get along with the Gamby and when school principal Welles (Bill Murray) steps down to care for an ailing wife both Gamby and Russell each think they’ll be the next principal. If Gamby is a bully Russell is a weasel willing to do anything if it means advancing his career.
But when the school board decides to go with an outsider as principal, Gamby and Russell team up to take her out and claim the position for themselves.
I think where Eastbound and Down worked where Vice Principals doesn’t is that the McBride character in Eastbound and Down was a self-centered foul-mouthed idiot that was believable in a show about an ex-ball player who’s been coddled all his life and was spat out of the MLB after he lost his pitch. It doesn’t work here for a character who has daily contact with the public, and their children, and could easily lose his job or be demoted for any one of things he does or says xin the first episode.
Vice Principals does have some funny moments and I can see myself watching the series — it is summer after all and there’s not a ton of new stuff to choose from — but it’s something I’ll probably watch off my DVR when there’s no other options rather than being excited about it and watching it live.
Halt and Catch Fire season 3 preview
Iron Fist preview
Luke Cage preview
The Man in the High Castle season 2 preview
American Gods preview
Wonder Woman teaser trailer
Justice League Comicon footage
Kong: Skull Island teaser trailer
Doctor Strange trailer
The Reading List
Return of the Living Dead: The Chaotic Production Of A Zombie Classic
This week in pop-culture history
- 1928: Stanley Kubrick is born
- 1966: Batman the movie premiers
- 1983: The TV mini-series V premiers
- 1983: Krull opens in theaters
- 1986: Flight of the Navigator opens in theaters
- 1987: Superman IV: The Quest for Peace opens in theaters
- 1990: The TV series Swamp Thing premiers
- 2001: Planet of the Apes opens in theaters
Direct Beam Comms #19
Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
Doctor Strange poster
I’m not a big fan of the Resident Evil films. I think I saw the first one, or part of the first one at least, and that was enough for me. So I never went to seek out any of the four sequels released after the original. Yet the other morning when I turned on the TV the channel that I happened to be on from the night before was showing Resident Evil: Extinction and since it was still early and I didn’t have anything else to do I sat down and started watching it.
Resident Evil: Extinction isn’t a good movie. The story doesn’t make much sense and the visuals look like they were cribbed partly from a makeup TV commercial where all the actors have perfect skin and teeth along with model good looks mixed with C-grade horror flick special effects. Yet for some reason I couldn’t stop watching Resident Evil: Extinction after I’d started. I watched the whole movie start to finish and when it aired again later in the afternoon I started watching it again for the bits I’d missed in the morning when I was doing my laundry.
The only reason I can think that I watched the movie to the finish, like I said, Resident Evil: Extinction is a reeeeeal stinker, is that it’s so bad it’s good. To illustrate my point, here’s a list of things in the movie that alone aren’t much of an issue, but together doomed the film.
- Most of the actors look like models who just exited the makeup trailer, not survivors of a zombie apocalypse and have spent the last two years running for their lives.
- The women all either dress skimpy, showing as much flesh as they can which doesn’t make a lot of sense when one bite from a zed leads to transformation into a zed yourself, or like clones of Sarah Conner in T2.
- For some inexplicable reason that I’m sure has to do with budget rather than story unless I missed it, most of the zombies are bald and all wear blue uniform jumpsuits.
- The zombies can run too, which I don’t remember them being able to do in the first film.
- The zombies and other monsters have a habit of attacking side characters first, and leaving the main cast for later. Which is odd since it’s mostly the main cast who are fighting back against the creatures while the side characters scatter and run away.
- A major plot point of Resident Evil: Extinction is lifted directly from Day of the Dead. And I think this is more “lifting” than an “homage.”
I think it’s all this plus the mess of the story as a whole plus the crazy action scenes that don’t make a lick of sense plus the gore plus the dodgy special effects that made it so that I was unable to look away from this train wreck of a movie. Heck, after having sat through Resident Evil: Extinction I’m tempted to checkout the other films just to see how bad the they are. D
Suicide Squad trailer #2
“What if Superman had decided to fly down, rip off the roof of the White House and grab the President right out of the Oval Office? Who would’ve stopped him?”
“I want to build a team of some very bad people who I think can do some good.”
Doctor Strange trailer
“Forget everything that you think you know.”
“What if I told you (your) reality was one of many?”
The last thing Sgt. Apone saw
Out this Tuesday is Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two, the second book in what looks to be a trilogy that covers all of the various Topps trading cards released for the original trilogy.
These two Alien Warrior from Aliens and Dog Alien from Alien 3 life-sized busts are simply amazing. But they’re well out of my price range at about $1,500 each.
- Doctor Who Books: “A large collection of various Doctor Who-related books, texts, magazine articles and literature.”
- SciFi80TV: ”Featuring short previews of classic Science Fiction TV shows.”
- Vintage Toledo (and Detroit) TV: “This website will primarily be a place to view print ads from the 1960s and ’70s for Toledo and Detroit TV stations. ”
The Reading List
This week in pop-culture history
1996: The movie Mystery Science Theater 3000 opens.