The Teaser Trailer for Doctor Strange was released today, and I tweeted a bit about this, but I felt like I needed to discuss it some more. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it below and then we’ll move on.
Of all the Marvel properties, Doctor Strange is one of the characters I know the least about. I actually know more about Namor than I do Strange. So if you’re looking for an outsider perspective, I’m about as close as you’re going to get.
And I was underwhelmed. I admit, this has been the MCU movie that I’ve been least looking forward to – and I certainly voiced some criticisms about the casting. BUT, I was willing to view this with an open mind. I remember thinking Thor was going to be silly, and was blown away by how wrong I was.
I know it’s a teaser, but a teaser is supposed to be a hook. Have a hook to get you excited for the full trailer. This teaser did set up Strange’s backstory – Steven Strange was a surgeon who after a car accident can no longer perform surgery. He goes to Nepal and gets some reality bending mojo.
While this is all laid out for us, it felt far too familiar. Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One is busy training Strange – and all I see are Neo and Morpheus in the Dojo from the Matrix (both the shot’s framing and the dialogue reminded me a lot of Morpheus discussing the Matrix and its possibilities). We see all the realities of New York piled on top of one another, and between it and the score – all I think of is Inception and Paris bending in on itself. There’s nothing compelling me to see this movie based on those stylistic choices. (Though I do want to watch Inception again)
Also, given the concerns of white-washing (Tilda Swinton was cast as a Tibetan mystic. There’s no reality where that isn’t white-washing. You can dismiss the opportunity to put a narrative given to a white character because it wasn’t marketable to have an Asian hero, but Swinton’s casting is straight up white-washing), it seemed exceptionally odd that the lone main character that is portrayed by an Asian man was nowhere in the teaser. Not even a glimpse. The only Asian people were background extras. The lone person of color was Chiwetel Ejiofor. (That was Mads Mikkelsen bending reality in Asian inspired threads, btw. And a blink and miss her shot of Rachel McAdams as a doctor or nurse.)
The film looks beautiful. The style. The cinematography. But there was nothing in the actual trailer that made me wiggle in my seat with excitement. Because it felt like a road we’ve gone down before.
This was one of the teaser images put up over at Entertainment Weekly, and I can’t help but think that if there was just a little of that in the teaser, I’d be excited. Because that image isn’t exactly something we’ve seen before. Super powers, yes. But even just a brief shot of him in action would have been enough.
What are your thoughts? I really am trying not to prejudge the movie. I have criticisms with the lack of diversity in Marvel projects, and I’m honestly trying to view this on its own merit first, and then look at it critically. While Cumberbatch is a dead ringer for Steven Strange, I’m just not sure that I can be excited for the movie based solely on that fact.
Update: Since I didn’t know much about Doctor Strange’s origin, I wasn’t aware that originally it was set in Tibet (though that makes so much more sense than Nepal, the more I think about cultural history). Marvel made the conscious choice to change it to Nepal in order to avoid Chinese censorship, since China is currently occupying Tibet. And that bites, too.