Yes, I appreciate “the preceding trailers” is an oxymoron. Don’t blame me, blame the language.
First of all, the trailers. The trailer for Fantastic Beasts looks like a hell of a lot of fun. It’s all the magic and fun of (early) Harry Potter, but without all those meddling kids. Also without the level of British acting chops the main series had, so we shall see.
The main things that struck me about the Rogue One trailer were the nostalgia combined with cool effects. Then I noticed the multicultural cast… who were supporting a feud between two white Europeans, but still. Also, I do hope the new tagline will be “A beautiful Englishwoman saves the galaxy… again!”
Also, Hollywood was really creeped out by Mads Mikkelsen’s turn as Hannibal Lecter, huh?
On to the film itself after the cut.
The Main Event
Yeah, Mikkelsen is creepy and off-putting in Doctor Strange, too. His accent and left-of-centre delivery does add to the global feel of the film, and the sense that everyone knows a little more than both the main character and the audience at all times.
A lot of writing advice talks about making promises to your audience. We see this demonstrated very clearly in the structure of Doctor Strange. We open on a confusing, magical, Nolan-esque fight sequence, and that’s more or less where we end the story too. The opening promises weird mystical stuff and weird special effects to represent them, and we do get that in spades.
There was a lot of talk about Tilda Swinton playing The Ancient One as Celtic rather than fundamentally Asian as written. There was also talk of the change being partly because of political tension in East Asia, which would have caused loss of sales if she had been cast as being from an one country or another. I know less about that than many who have commented on it previously (I recommend The Mary Sue), but I have to say a couple of notes on this.
Firstly, she blew it away. We all know Swinton is androgynous and creepy whilst also being charming. She pulls off all of these things with aplomb as one would expect.
Secondly, there is and element of The Mighty Whitey about Doctor Strange, in that the only Asian people seen to be mastering the mystic arts are there to support the main (white) character in becoming the best. I have to admit that that tweaked my white liberal guilt somewhat.
By a similar but also completely different token: Benedict Cumberbatch. I went into the film asking why one would hire the Batch to play American. I left not having answered the question, really. I mean, his accent is fine and not too distracting (most of the time), but from a casting perspective he seems like an odd choice. That said, in every other element – the journey from arrogant twat to self-confident but at peace sorcerer – he is Doctor Strange. It’s just the accent thing that kept distracting me.
Okay, one more aside. Rachel McAdams. Another thing Hollywood is clearly convinced of is that McAdams is a muggle. Really, take a look at her filmography. She’s becoming a bit of a sci-fi/fantasy regular, but keeps on being the shocked non-magic type. Don’t get me wrong; she does it beautifully and isn’t (just) a romantic foil for The Batch. Still, it’s an odd trend in her career. Please note, I’m at least three years behind being the first to make this observation.
If I were to describe the film in one sentence, it would be: “High concept nonsense with a shot of Inception for good measure.” It’s a lot of fun, but also has its intense moments. It’s up there with Ant-Man and Captain America: Civil War in terms of the strength of its origin stories. Stay to the end of the credits to see the metaplot of at least two future movies, and a couple of cool cameos.