After watching Doctor Strange, its hard to tell if Marvel has doubled-down on its magical side, or on a bunch of LSD.
Doctor Strange (2016) is the 14th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is directed by Scott Derrickson. It star Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr Stephen Strange, a gifted but arrogant neurosurgeon, who turns to powerful sorcerer The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) to heal him after a crippling accident. Instead of finding a cure for his injuries, his mind is instead opened to the mystic arts and the multiverse just in time for him to contend with the zealot Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) before he devastates the world.
Its not Strange enough
Typical Marvel origin-story fare. Doctor Strange is annoyingly a movie of paradoxes. On one hand, you have the introduction of magic into the MCU and some incredible visuals which gives the movie a sense of originality and flair. On the other hand, this film waters down to a fairly standard and predictable Marvel product. The cocky genius who turns his life around after a significant event and becomes a hero is quite literally the plot of Iron Man, and Doctor Strange does little to stray from that formula outside of a little hocus pocus. That’s not to say it isn’t told well – its consistently engaging and is nowhere near as jumbled as a certain other recent comic book movie – but unfortunately suffers from being too plain. Particularly compared to its visuals.
A Kaleidoscope of Trippy
And my god, this movie is a sight to behold. The trippy Steve Ditko art of the 80s is lovingly adapted to screen in some fantastically weird and cerebral sequences that will have you questioning what exactly your popcorn has been laced with. Part Inception with a little bit of The Matrix sprinkled in, a multitude of influences combine to make something that is not only unique, but by far the strongest aspect of the film. The set pieces here are astonishing. The one aspect that does drag it down is a little shaky cam and rough editing, but this is a minor complaint when presented with the vista of a city turning itself inside out.
Elementary, my dear Wong
Doctor Strange also manages to boast quite an impressive cast. At its head is the consistently great Benedict Cumberbatch as Strange himself, an actor who has plenty of experiences playing an arrogant and quippy genius. His american accent is strange (sorry, had to slip one in) initially, but after a while it blends into the background.
Now, putting aside all the controversy surrounding Tilda Swinton’s casting as The Ancient One, she was legitimately great too. If the character was going to be white, at least they had the intelligence to get Swinton. She’s one of my favourite actresses and possess all the pathos, gravitas and humour to portray the powerful and mysterious figure.
Now, as a huge surprise, the love interest is actually alright. Rachel McAdams plays Christine Palmer, a fellow doctor who (thank god) acts more like a supporting character than a romantic partner. She never gets kidnapped, never gets weepy and actually helps out on a few occasions. Sad that’s not the norm, but good on Strange for breaking the mould.
On the complete opposite of the spectrum is Mad’s Mikkelsen’s villainous Kaecilius, who can also be described as ‘another bland Marvel villain’. He has an interesting ideology, but is little more than that. Its a shame because the film hints at an interesting backstory, but never explores it, leaving the talented actor shamefully underused.
As for the rest of the cast, we have Chiwetel Ejiofor as Baron Mordo and Benedict Wong as (appropriately) Wong. Both are good, but aren’t given a tonne to do and therefore don’t make a huge impression.
Marvel goes Magical
Not their best, but far from their worst, Doctor strange deliver’s everything as expected. Great visuals, a slick production, but standard story and a weak villain. Its no Thor but won’t stand amongst the Winter Soldier’s and Guardians of the MCU.
General Audiences: Recommended
Film Buffs: Recommended
True Believers (Marvel): Highly Recommended