Saturday, November 5, 2016

Dr. Strange [2016]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III) (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B)  Fr. Dennis (2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review (A.J. Bastien) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

Dr. Strange [2016] (directed and screenplay cowritten by Scott Derrickson along with Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill, based on the Comic [MC] [wikip] by Steve Ditko [wikip] [GR] [IMDb]) while on a purely artistic / technical level is simply spectacular (well worth the 3D glasses if one would wish to pay the $3-4 extra / ticket to view the film that way) is perhaps the most problematic (of the Marvel based films) to date for a Catholic (re)viewer like me.

I write this as both basically a fan of the Marvel comics based films to date and a as reviewer, who though writing from a Catholic perspective, recognizes that artists (including comic book writers / graphic novelists as well as film makers) in a free society clearly have the right to produce any work that they wish.

That said, artists / film makers, etc need to expect their their works will be critiqued and at times criticized by (re)viewers holding any number of values (and yes, at times, quite organized belief systems) including someone like me.

I write that this film has proven to be the "most problematic" of the Marvel based films thus-far because in numerous instances the story's writers / film-makers here appeared to chose to portray Christianity as "in league with" Darkness / the Enemy.

The film's chief villain, a certain Kaecilus (played by Mads Mikkelsen), who appeared to be seeking to move our world into a realm of Darkness, is shown meeting with his followers IN A CHRISTIAN (AND ARGUABLY A CATHOLIC) CHURCH.  Worse, for some reason the film's makers choose to argue (and repeatedly) that the possibility of ETERNAL LIFE is SOMETHING TO BE AVOIDED and arguably EVIL while FINITENESS is somehow by definition GOOD.

Tell that to a mother who's lost her kid to cancer / a car accident ... (or to a kid who loses his or her mother to cancer or a car accident).   In such cases, FINITENESS is self-evidently UNJUST and Christianity, quite FUNDAMENTALLY, seeks to REDRESS this self-evident INJUSTICE with its DOCTRINE OF ETERNAL LIFE -- that not even Death has the Final Word on one's life, that the Final Word belongs to God, and God's Final Word for us is Life with Him and Each Other for Eternity.  That would _seem_ like self-evidently a REALLY GOOD DEAL (Good News [TM]) for someone who's facing untimely death or the untimely death of a loved one.  And yet in this story "Eternal Life" is portrayed, repeatedly (and arguably quite dogmatically) as somehow "in league with Evil."

And I'm just saying that this is _Strange_ ...

Indeed in the film, the story's chief protagonist, Dr. Stephen Strange [MC] [wikip] [IMDb] (played by Benedict Cumberpatch), found himself staring squarely at the INJUSTICE of the FINITENESS of his own life.  He entered the story as a super-talented (if also arrogant) neurosurgeon only to find his life radically altered in a split second, when while driving a split moment's glance at an MRI on his cellphone caused him to smash his car in a way that shattered his hands (to the point that he could _never operate again_) and nearly cost him his Life.   Such a high Penalty for such a small Mistake.

That accident and its consequences forced him to set off on what inevitably _became_ a different kind of quest (from excellence in the narrow field of neurosurgery to something BEYOND IT) ... and much ensued.

Yet, that which ensued ... _need not_ have gone in a way that made CHRISTIANITY (or its hope in Eternal Life) "an Enemy" ... that was a choice made by the storytellers here.

And Dear Readers, I have no problem at all that the film's protagonist chose to go to Nepal to seek a more EASTERN (more HINDU / BUDDHIST) answer to his dilemma.  I'm just saying that CHRISTIANITY / a belief in Eternal Life need not be the enemy.  Indeed, I would hope that it'd be _a good part_ of the solution ;-).

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