Doctor Strange, 2016.
Directed by Scott Derrickson.
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen, and Benedict Wong.
A former neurosurgeon embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts.
When a film opens with the villain ceremoniously decapitating an innocent librarian and then taking part in a kaleidoscopic, violent and visually breath-taking action sequence, you know you’re in for a treat. Doctor Strange sticks close to the traditional Marvel formula but introduces the audience to a whole new world of sorcery and magic.
Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) is an arrogant and brilliant neurosurgeon who lives a perfect existence in his swish apartment until a devastating car accident (don’t get distracted whilst driving readers) leaves his hands nerve damaged and unusable. Desperate to find a cure after Western medicine fails, he hears the story of a paralysed man learning to walk again after visiting a guru in Khatmandu. Strange heads off on his journey and encounters The Ancient One (Swinton) as well as her loyal followers. He learns the magic arts and also gets thrust into an epic battle against Kaecilius (Mikkelsen) a former student who has gone rogue.
This is an origin story at its finest and we get to see Strange start off as a pig headed, frustrating character and eventually he sees the light and finds his purpose. Cumberbatch is brilliant in the role and despite displaying a generic and sometimes faltering American accent, he goes into the role full guns blazing. There are elements of Sherlock in there as well as an homage to Tony Stark whilst we also get to see his physical comedy abilities thrust to the forefront with the Cape of Levitation having a mind of its own. Altogether he’s brilliantly cast as Strange. The standout performance is easily Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One. Whilst there was much white-washing controversy, if you step back and embrace it she is phenomenal. A truly androgynous performer she is playful, powerful and deeply insightful. There is a good balance of comedy and the action sequences are stunning. We also get solid support from Chiwitel Ejiofor and Benedict Wong as Mordo and Wong respectively. Rachel McAdams as Dr Christine Palmer is unfortunately pushed to the side and gets little to do but scream a bit and offer medical help when the script calls for it. Thankfully she doesn’t become a damsel in distress but it’s a shame that she wasn’t given more to do.
Unfortunately Doctor Strange suffers the usual Marvel stumbling block of a weak villain. Mads Mikkelsen is a tremendous actor, yet here his character gets no development and other than a few great action sequences; he gets little to do. Mikkelsen has played villains many times and has always found a hidden depth and wonderment that makes him a delight to watch. Here he has such thin material to work with that his natural charisma can’t break through. It’s something we see time and time again with Marvel and despite Loki and The Winter Soldier, have any other villains been that memorable?
From the first trailers released, it was clear that Doctor Strange was going to be visually different to any other Marvel film. Watching it in IMAX 3D was brilliant. Cities fold into each other, mirror dimensions crack and blend together making it a visceral experience to watch. An early scene when The Ancient One sends Strange on a short trip through the many dimensions is beautiful and terrifying to watch. Feeling more like Dali on an acid trip than re-watching Inception it is simply stunning to watch.
Whilst Doctor Strange doesn’t hit every note perfectly, it’s a great first outing for this new hero. We’re introduced to a whole new world and the mid and post credit scenes indicate that we’re in for a hell of a ride with his next outing.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★