A former neurosurgeon embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) continues to expand, in more ways than one, with the release of Doctor Strange – the most ambitious and enjoyable entry in years.
Doctor Strange follows the story of the talented neurosurgeon Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock, The Imitation Game) who, after a tragic car accident, must put ego aside and learn the secrets of a hidden world of mysticism and alternate dimensions. Based in New York City’s Greenwich Village, Doctor Strange must act as an intermediary between the real world and what lies beyond, utilising a vast array of metaphysical abilities and artifacts to protect the Universe.
Up until now, the MCU has only really touched upon magical abilities in their characters. The closest ones linked to sorcery would have to be Thor and Loki, but even then it’s not the focus, whereas Doctor Strange is all about the spells. It’s a refreshing new angle on what is an admittedly tired genre (yes, superhero is now it’s own entity) but that’s not to say the picture is entirely original or without its flaws.
The origin story itself conjures up uncanny similarities to preceding entries – both in Marvel and DC, with Strange owing thanks to Iron Man and Batman Begins for its egotistical lead getting a sharp reality shock while exiled from society. The difference here though is Strange never takes itself too seriously, and Cumberbatch is an eternal joy to watch as the titular character. Not since the aforementioned Iron Man has it appeared the actor in the role has had fun with what they’re doing. The script is surprisingly comical too, with quips naturally flowing and never feeling like they were shoehorned in to lighted the mood.
Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One impresses also, and did not deserve the backlash she received from her casting in the role. The argument arose from the fact that the comic depicted the character as being of Tibetan descent, whereas Swinton is a Scottish white woman. The nature of the character, and Swinton’s unique appearance for the role, means that race simply does not matter, and she is completely believable as a wise, elder figure.
Villain wise, Doctor Strange throws two antagonists into the mix but only one really gets any significant screen time. Mads Mikkelsen plays Kaecilius, a rogue Mystic Arts Master who breaks away from The Ancient One. Mikkelsen’s casting was an intriguing and exciting one, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that an actor of his calibre is wasted a little, or more specifically isn’t shown to the best of his ability. Dormammu rounds off the bad guys, but is spoken about more than seen – think Thanos in The Avengers, or the Sauron/Saruman relationship in The Fellowship of the Ring. As for the rest of the supporting cast, Chiwetel Ejiofor overemphasizes the majority of his dialogue as fellow sorcerer Mordo making him rather irritating for the most part, Rachel McAdams is Christine Palmer, the token love interest that never really has a satisfying conclusion and Benedict Wong excels as comic relief Wong, a character which Derrickson has explicitly stated will have a strong presence in the MCU moving forward – and that can only be a good thing.
Uninspiring origin story aside, what really makes Doctor Strange worth watching is its genuinely unbelievable visuals. It’s no exaggeration to say the effects are some of the best ever seen in cinematic history. Buildings constantly fold in on themselves and walls rotate continuously, making impossible angles for adrenaline-filled fight scenes; it’s Inception seen through a kaleidoscope. Fortunately, and to its infinite credit, these scenes never overstay their welcome or happen so often that the wonder of their existence wears thin. Director Scott Derrickson uses constraint and control to make every mind bending scene last long enough to be remembered from start to finish.
A mid credit scene hints at Strange’s involvement with the rest of the Marvel crew, and a final scene all but confirms a sequel. Fans of previous entries will have to take a leaf out of Strange’s book and expand their minds to fully get on board with the drastic departure from they what they have come to know and love from the Marvel team, but in regards to moving the Universe forward into the next phase, it’s a confident and hugely entertaining step into the right dimension.
Refreshing change of style for Marvel
Cumberbatch fits the role perfectly
Waste of Mads Mikkelson