So, I saw DOCTOR STRANGE today. Some thoughts, Storify-ed from Twitter, and then more below.
There are other problems – using an Asian setting for the Sorcerer’s training location but only casting one Asian character with a notable speaking role is a problem. That one character (Benedict Wong as Wong) was awesome, and I was happy that they re-framed his character from Asian Manservant to Master Sorcerer/Guardian of the Library). Even with the Ancient One as Celtic, the Sorcerer’s base and other parts of the film still had vestiges of Orientalism, from the robes to some of the symbolism to parts of the music.
The three Sanctuaries are all places where English is a major if not default language (New York, London, and Hong Kong), which very firmly centers the film in a Western & Anglophone paradigm. Have the Sanctuaries moved, or did earlier Sorcerers Supreme build the New York Sanctuary with the assistance of the Iroquoian and Algonquian? It would have been cool, for me, to have even a note of “These three haven’t always been the three. They move when they need to, or when they’re destroyed.”
But I nitpick because I love. Because I want these works to be ever-better. I thought Doctor Strange was one of the strongest first-in-series films the MCU has delivered, up there with Iron Man, Thor, and Guardians of the Galaxy. I left the theater already wanting to see the film again (I saw it in 2D and have heard the Real 3D version is really worth it. Given the content of the film, I totally see why). I know that many people are tired of origin stories, and I can definitely understand that – I want supers movies to take more chances with storytelling structure and tale-types, but for me this film wasn’t just Strange’s origin, it was also the introduction to a whole new axis of the MCU, just as Thor introduced the Space Fantasy axis and Guardians of the Galaxy introduced the Space Opera axis. Using Strange’s origin to introduce that axis was narratively expedient, though I think Feige and company could have done that work via new-to-magic viewpoint character with Strange as the expert.
So, my general response is that I really liked the movie, and that the concerns I had going in were borne out and are the complaints I spell out above. I totally get why some people are giving the movie a hard pass. If the representation question isn’t a non-starter for you, and you generally enjoy Marvel movies, I think you’ll probably really like this one.