Movie Review: ‘Doctor Strange’
Director: Scott Derrickson
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofer, Mads Mikkelsen, Benedict Wong
Plot: Dr. Stephen Strange is a brilliant neurosurgeon at the top of his field with an unchecked ego to match. When his reckless behaviour lands him in a car crash his hands are rendered almost entirely useless. He seeks out Eastern medicine to repair the damage, opening his path to the mystic arts and turning him into a sorcerer.
Review: So is today the day we grow tired of the Marvel formula, or perhaps even the day they make a wrong move and dent their almost perfect run? Fortunately…no. There is certainly some audience fatigue with the barrage of superheroes on our screens both big and small but Marvel maintain their place at the top of the ladder with this newest addition to their team. Whilst Ant-Man mixed things up with a different kind of hero and attitude, Doctor Strange brings a new and impressive visual style to the fore.
Dr. Stephen Strange is not unlike Tony Stark at the beginning of the story. They’re both wealthy, cavalier and certified geniuses who seemingly exist to exasperate those around them. Unlike the rest of the Avengers who came into their abilities through science, Strange introduces magic to the cinematic franchise. Marvel comics in the 1970s was home to many psychedelic concepts and visuals, and this era of the comics laid the groundwork for how magic would be depicted in the comics from then on. The brightly coloured sigils and reality warping visuals have been recreated on screen as they are in the comics and it never once looks hokey or cartoony, which is easily the biggest obstacle to believability the film makers needed to overcome. The film is packed with astounding visuals and although the ending feels like a bit of a CGI maelstrom they’ve added a great aspect the MCU.
After left-of-centre choices in casting and director such as Paul Rudd and the Russo Brothers have paid off impressively it’s almost unnecessary to say that they’re right on the money with Doctor Strange. Cumberbatch captures both aspects of the scientist turned mystic with only an occasionally slipped accent to give him away. Rachel McAdams is always great to see on the big screen, especially as this is her second chance at the franchise after turning down Pepper Potts (you left us with Paltrow!). Swinton carries a surprising weight as the Ancient One, conveying the strength of the character while not looking half as menacing as her enemies. All round the cast are doing a bang up job. Derrickson, in the directors chair, is stepping away from his horror movie comfort zone – this is certainly bigger than anything he’s done before. He does a great job of building this visually mind-bending world in ways that makes it easy for the audience to grasp the many, many ideas thrown at them.
Like Guardians of the Galaxy this film shifts substantially away from Earth and it’s sciences, and as such this movie does a lot more world building than the 14th entry into a franchise would normally need to. The audience get the concepts of the magic powers explained along with Slip Rings, the Cape of Levitation, the Mirror World, the Dark Dimension, the Eye of Agamatto, the Sanctums, some special jumping boots his friend has in addition to a bunch of new characters we have to feel invested in. This could’ve felt like a bunch of gibberish but they introduce each new idea visually and everything plays a role in the final act, so nothing feels wasted. For people familiar with the character it’s like watching all the pieces of the puzzle falling into place one by one.
If there is some criticism to be levelled at Doctor Strange it’s that the Marvel origin movies are increasingly beginning to feel like different flavours of the same ice-cream. Looks a bit different, has a slightly different feel but at the core it’s all basically the same thing and when they melt together it’s hard to distinguish them. What I’m trying to say is that I like ice-cream and want them to keep making it, but sometimes pie might be a good option as well and I’m going any further with this metaphor.
Now I’m hungry.
Rating: NINE out of TEN