Doctor Strange: Another Rich, White Asshole Courtesy of Marvel

Doctor Strange, directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister), tells the story of Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a gifted neurosurgeon who is wrapped up in his own vanity. After karma executes Stephen’s fate he suffers irreversible damage to his hands, destroying his valued medical career. His desperate search for physical healing takes him to the Far East to a place called Kamar-Taj. There he meets the “Ancient One,” (Tilda Swinton) a mystical witch with undisputed power, and Baron Mordor (Chewitel Ejiofor) one of the chief masters of the Kamar-Taj temple. Strange believes the Ancient One is the key to healing his hands and returning back to the medical field. Little does he know he is smack in the middle of a war between good and evil. His visit to Kamar-Taj will be a turning point for Stephen Strange. He chooses to learn the ways of the arts but isn’t sure if this magical war is a good fit for him.


The Ancient One… It’s just odd that she’s a bald white woman parading around the homogeneous country of Nepal, although the film claims she is of Celtic origin. The mere sight of her is problematic and doesn’t make any sense. Why would a Celtic woman travel to the edge of the world to open up a Full-Metal Alchemist karate school? When Tilda Swinton was cast, Marvel made it seem like a revolutionary choice. The excuse is that she was dispelling the myths of the “Fu Manchu/Dragon Lady” tropes that cinema so often perpetuates.

Instead of writing a decent role for an Asian actress, they give it to a white woman and tell fans they are dispelling Asian myths? Absolute insanity! What makes this worse is there is nothing there to make Swinton’s performance stand out. She brings nothing special that an Asian actress could not have done. I guess it gives the ancient white woman a bit of an edge to be hanging out and appropriating East Asian culture. shrug


Then there is Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who is just the rich, white, male asshole, and a fanboy’s wet dream. With great power comes great responsibility BLAH BLAH BLAH… We’ve been down this road over and over again. For all those times I complained about the DCEU’s down to Earth, gritty approach, it does serve a purpose. In some ways, those DCEU characters are far more relatable even if they aren’t written that well.  Marvel does have Steve Rogers who came from humble beginnings, but must everyone be a rich, white, cis-male, sarcastic douche nozzle who hates authority?

Then the weakness of the character is followed up by some of the same pacing issues — like many other origin stories in the MCU in that the hero instantly falls into this gargantuan struggle between good and evil just after completing his/her training. Cumberbatch is a breath of stank, stale air, and a total bore. He sleepwalks through the part and seems there for a paycheck.


The only sane character here is Baron Mordo (the Black guy, how surprisingly). He is wise and counsels Stephen throughout his journey. He’s a traditionalist who doesn’t believe in interrupting the natural balance of the world. He is the only person who is initially not acting out of selfishness. He believes in the power of redemption and really goes to bat for Stephen, even when the Ancient One doesn’t want to be bothered with him.

By the end of the film, Mordo comes to terms with the way things really are and decides to set his own path apart from Stephen Strange. I was glad to see him separate himself from the goofy cast of characters he had to associate with. Of course, this means they’re setting up to be the villain in the next installment. Speaking of villains…


Marvel still has a problem with its villains. Kacilius (Mads Mikkelson) is yet another asshole who wants to disrupt the balance and plunge the world into darkness for a chance at immortality. Unfortunately, as a villain Kacilius is useless and the Studio 54 smokey, sparkly eye makeup doesn’t help him look intimidating either. Mikkelsen has proven himself to be a master at villainous roles, but his role in Doctor Strange is so thin and flimsy, it’s a waste of his talents. Then the big bad is just another CGI generated character who talks too much. Before the audience discovers why this villain is so powerful, they acquiesce. The villains are never engaging enough for the audience to be invested. I’m so over this from Marvel.

Despite all of its flaws, there are good moments in Doctor Strange. Tilda Swinton and Benedict Wong deliver some funny one liners. Rachel McAdams, although wasted in what amounts to basically a cameo, provides some good laughs as well. Due to Scott Derrickson’s background, it is easy to spot the horror elements he incorporated into the film, which is a nice bit of filmmaking. The goal of Scott Derrickson is to suffocate the audience with visual splendor. Imagine Christopher Nolan’s Inception on speed. He has done a superb job with the visuals, but it can be overpowering at times. Not because it was too much to look at, but because it was like CGI overdose to mask cinematic flaws. The villains are still poorly written, and I don’t think Marvel knows how to fix this problem.

They need to get their shit together over at Marvel. Time to come with something better!

23 thoughts on “Doctor Strange: Another Rich, White Asshole Courtesy of Marvel

  1. If they were going to make Ancient One of Celtic origin they should have set this in the British isles instead plenty of mystical tales around there. I think they mentioned Tilda’s Ancient One is not a character but a title.

    I’m a defender of the DCCU I think despite the criticism, it better represents our world than Marvel has done. Take for example Superman, he lives in a world that constantly tempts him to snap. We constantly are tempted to snap in this chaotic world we live in. Plus if we knew an alien had lived on Earth for many years we’d try and hunt him down to be stuck in a lab somewhere he wouldn’t be received with open arms.

    Oh Mikkelsen a very terrible waste of his abilities as an actor.

      1. ‘Celtic Isles’? Not since the anglo-saxons arrived here. If they were going to make the Ancient One ‘Celtic’ there was the opportunity to do something interesting, which they missed. The year before Boudicca’s revolt the Roman colonizers slaughtered all the Druids on the sacred isle of Mona (now ‘Ynys Mon’ in Welsh, ‘Anglesey’ in English). Mona was basically the Vatican of Druidism, and after cutting off its head it withered allowing the ascendency of Christianity, a culturally-imposed, alien religion. (Modern druidism was created from whole cloth a few centuries back and has nothing to do with the original.) Having the Ancient One pre-date the massacre on Mona, having her be the last surviving true druid is something you could build on. Instead we just get a tossed-off “I think she’s Celtic”,

      2. I was doing something else while reading your post must have missed that part. LOL! But so much history there the Romans regarded the Celts as backward, dirt worshippers something like that. But alas. For what it’s worth I think Mordo if they are going with I think they are going, he will make a very nuanced villain in a future sequel.

      3. Just made her Celtic and that’s that huh? They should have drawn instead from Irish culture instead of Eastern would have saved people a lot of headaches.

      4. Martin Suarez: Not all Celts are Irish other than all Asians are Chinese, but this does seem to be the default in the US.

  2. Blinkalink Cumbersnatch playing a white asshole…? What a shock!

    In Sherlock he plays one… in Star Trek Into Darkness he plays one… at least he’s sticking to what he knows, but damn sounds like this is every bit as bad as I thought it would be.

    And that’s without getting into the whitewashing of the Ancient One, with the director talking about how China could have blocked the movie had they done anything promoting Tibet, as that’s where the character was originally in the comics.

    Sadly, Marvel continues to do badly by Asians in their representation, from the Netflix series to the movies. Hell, about the only two good represenations I can think of, outside of Mingna Wen in AOS, is a soldier Captain America saves from Hydra (Kenneth Choi as Jim Morita) who defends his right to fight despite being thought of as a Japanese infiltrator by his comrades, and the landlady from Luke Cage, because she doesn’t speak with a stereotypical accent and disappears from the series after episode 3.

    Not good, Marvel… not good.

    1. Yeah, I’m starting to think Marvel has a serious pathology against Asians. Wtf? From the Yellow Peril tropes, to whitewashing, they seem utterly incapable of getting this right. What the f***is wrong with them?

      1. Which is what made Connie, the landlady and her husband, in Luke Cage so sadly revolutionary. Sure, they had a restaurant, but they spoke without a stereotypical accent, and that’s a low fucking bar to jump.

    2. “in Star Trek Into Darkness he plays one”
      -He’s supposed to be “Khan Noonien Singh” who is of south Asian decent.

  3. i was with you u said “funny lines” lol there was nothing funny in this movie. i could see they THOUGHT it was funny but it was just plain stupid to me. sadly tilda was the best part of the film, so why couldnt tony leung or ken watanabe play the part? and i dont get why americans hate the “fu manchu/dragon lady” tropes so much lol. china does it literally ALL the time. guess yall dont watch chinese fantasy films lol. but i digress. the film was a mess, boring, uninspired and downright insulting. its wrong for the asian man to be a teacher but its ok for him to be the unemotional stoic with barely any lines or scenes? THAT trope is ok? chile…..well at least marvel and dc have one thing in common: consistency. all dc movies are great and marvel only has two good films. makes me not look forward to the sequels of those films (antman and guardians) cause they are bound to be awful. ce la vie

  4. Regrettably, with the 90% score on Rottentomatoes, and a $85 million debut in the US, I suspect Marvel thinks they’ve already got their shit together just fine.

  5. Despite its white washing, Dr. Strange just made a killing at the box office at $85 M for it’s opening weekend. So, these grievance will fall on deaf ears.

    1. LOL! Definitely tracey they got paid those suits at Marvel will just shrug their shoulders.

  6. Plus again it was annoying how they just made her Celtic that’s it didn’t build up in that story. The Celtic people were very spiritual.

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