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music friday: return of the son of daily mix

doctor strange (scott derrickson, 2016)

I was only a casual comic book reader as a kid. When we were sick, our dad would often stop at the store on his way home from work and get us a 7-Up and a comic. But I didn’t keep up, didn’t know much about them.

In 1970-71, though, I had my first chance to be a hippie, which meant I did a lot of psychedelic drugs. I’m relying on Wikipedia here, because of my aforementioned lack of knowledge about comics (by then, I’d discovered comix, but that’s for another discussion), and because, well, who remembers what we did when we took a lot of psychedelic drugs? I don’t know how we discovered the books, but somehow we became aware of Dr. Strange. Again using Wikipedia, I can state that Dr. Strange became its own comic book in June of 1968, beginning with Issue #169 (because it was a continuation of the Strange Tales series, which had introduced the Doctor in 1963). There were 15 issues of Dr. Strange, running through November of 1969, before Marvel took a different route, leaving Strange to pop up now and then, finally settling in for a long run in 1974. All of this comes from Wikipedia ... I lost track of Dr. Strange after those months as a hippie.

We bought all 15 issues of the late-60s Dr. Strange, and read them over and over. Funny thing is, I barely remember them now. When I was watching Doctor Strange, I realized I had little idea of what was to come, which was fine. The one thing I thought I remembered was that Strange wore a cape ... turns out I was thinking of the Cloak of Levitation, which eventually turns up in the movie.

This is a bit pointless, describing things I didn’t remember as if they had something to do with my experience watching Doctor Strange. But I did come to the movie with a bit more happy anticipation than I usually do for the Marvel movies, which I am not up to date on (I do watch a few of the Marvel TV series). I was willing to give the movie a chance, which I don’t always do with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (OK, I liked Ant-Man a bit.) And yes, I liked it. I don’t know how it played with the Marvel fans, but it did make a shitload of money.

Much as is currently the case with Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell, Doctor Strange had a casting controversy because Tilda Swinton, who played The Ancient One, is not Asian. In the comics, he is a Tibetan man ... Derrickson has a complicated explanation for why he wanted to avoid stereotypes, with the solution being to turn the character into a Celtic mystic played by Swinton. I admit this didn’t bother me, since Swinton is always so odd, she is sui generis no matter who she is playing.

The cast was good overall, although I was pleased to find that “Mads Mikkelsen admitted that with all the computer-generated imagery he got a bit lost on how to film his scenes”. He was great, of course, but when I watch these movies, I often wonder what it’s like to try and act in them.

I didn’t care about the mystic angles, which were likely my favorite parts in my hippie days, but neither did ruin things for me. It’s just a case of accepting the world created in the film, and they’ve done well with that here. I have no idea how it all fits into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but that doesn’t bother me when I’m watching Jessica Jones, so it’s OK here, as well. It gets in under two hours, is a good blend of CGI spectacle and solid, human acting. It’s not a waste of time, which is to say, it’s at least as good as Ant-Man. 7/10.

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