In this Doctor Strange Movie Review Marvel gets a little… Strange, in their fourteenth cinematic offering. As the lights darken and the film begins, the first thing we’re treated to is a brand new Marvel Studios stinger, one which subtly provides a quick whistle-stop tour of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date, showing the likes of Iron Man and his assembled buddies with a few detours around the galaxy with those Guardians and other realms with the God of Thunder.
It basically impresses upon the viewer that, yes, Marvel’s mightiest are here to stay and here, the fourteenth entry in the MCU franchise, the studio now has the confidence to really strut their stuff and say this time: Let’s get meta-psychical. Thus, like Guardians of the Galaxy two years ago, we have a somewhat experimental entity that moves away from spandex clad super dudes and introduces Marvel’s Master of the Mystic Arts, the Sorcerer Supreme himself: Doctor Strange. This being his introductory offering, it mainly outlines his origin, which (being honest) is fairly by-the-numbers. More than a little like his onscreen forefather, Tony Stark, Benedict Cumberbatch’s eponymous entity is initially an impetuous and arrogant neurosurgeon with a superiority complex. But with those traits come personal flaws, defects which lead to his downfall and set him on redemption’s road.
Due to his overconfidence he loses control of his car, and his career with it, as his hands no longer have the steady hold his vocation requires, so off he sets on his quest for a cure. These efforts lead him to the Far East – Kamar-Taj, near Tibet, where he meets the mysterious ‘Ancient One’ (played by Tilda Swinton – a rather controversial change from the original source material wherein he was a wizened old Oriental man) who offers not a remedy, but a means of self-improvement via a mastery of magic. In their low key temple, he meets those who will be allies, Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Wong (Benedict Wong) and hears of others who’ve abandoned the Ancient One for their own ends – specifically a former disciple named Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) whose desire to conquer death pits him against our heroes and sets him up as the film’s Big Bad for the obligatory colossal conflict come the end.
As mentioned, a fair bit of this is relatively generic – it’s a formula which has served Marvel well and one they’d be unwise to abandon in the face of the mega box office it’s bought the studio to date. Comparisons with Guardians are a little inevitable and if we’re comparing like for like, this doesn’t quite have quite the same fresh flavour as the former. But that’s not to say it’s not good – far from it. As is now a fairly safe assumption when going to see Marvel’s main men on the silver screen, a good time is nigh-on guaranteed. Also in line with Marvel’s best efforts, where this film soars is when it doesn’t take itself too seriously. As always, there are one-liners aplenty and an ability to poke fun of itself in the face of some serious magic-babble in the dialogue.
Benedict Cumberbatch holds the whole thing together with aplomb. He exudes the same self-confidence which has made his other signature role – that Baker Street dwelling detective – so charismatic, but he also managers to add a light layer of comedy to create a slight distance between the two parts. I must admit to a few personal reservations when his casting was announced – so keen were the producers to secure his signature, they even agreed to hold up filming to await his availability – but, yes, like many other Marvel mainstays, e.g. Evans and Hemsworth, he perfectly embodies the role and already it’s difficult to imagine anyone else playing the part. Even his American accent convinces – something that could easily have let the whole endeavour down. One gets the impression Marvel are positioning this persona to be the poster boy for the Marvel franchise for when the day comes Robert Downey Jr. steps out of the armour – they’ve chosen wisely here.
Where this film really zags where the other efforts have zigged are within its visuals. You’ll already have seen from the trailers that there is an Inception-esque quality to some of the set pieces; although this would be a fair observation, it’s also just the tip of the iceberg and to say its overall aesthetic is reminiscent of that alone would be doing it a disservice. No spoilers here, but the final showdown with Kaecilius and crew involves some seriously cool time-based shenanigans and director Scott Derrickson (previously responsible for the more low key likes of Sinister and The Exorcism of Emily Rose) really puts a unique visual stamp on proceedings here, resulting in a film which really does feel decidedly different to what’s come before.
So, yes, Marvel has done it again. Doctor Strange is a fun filled romp that offers enjoyment from beginning to end. The good news is that it’s a safe bet things will improve too – now that the obligatory origin has been told, next time out the makers will really be able to let loose and build upon the firm foundations they’ve laid here.
Written By- Paul Tiley