Watching Doctor Strange was a frustrating experience. The movie features a high degree of visual inventiveness, clever scenarios that subvert standard Marvel conventions, a handful of great performances, and… well, a lot of bad jokes. This is the sort of movie where, in the middle of an exciting set piece, with Strange being pursued relentlessly amid a cityscape that is being ripped apart and cascading out in multiple directions, everything has to grind to a halt to make room for yet another Stan Lee cameo of the “Huh, don’t see that every day” with a shit-eating grin variety.
Why insert that cameo at that particular moment? Why do the monks needs to quip about wifi passwords? Why does Strange’s cape need to cap off a dramatic series of events with some wacky hijinks? Were the writers coerced into including that Beyonce song?
I probably sound like the least-fun person in the world right now – and I may very well be the least-fun person in the world – but hear me out for a second. There’s room for levity in almost any story, whether it’s a blockbuster action movie or something more “serious.” Mad Men, for example, was adroit at weaving great jokes into most episodes in a way that felt organic instead of forced (just throw “Pete Campbell” into YouTube’s search bar to see what I’m talking about). Doctor Strange just feels like it can’t go more than a few minutes without hitting the “laughs” button. A little restraint and a better sense of timing would have done wonders here.