There’s someone Strange in the neighbourhood, as Marvel’s Cinematic Universe enters a mystical realm and introduces a new and altogether different kind of hero. The Doctor is in, but the question is, is he any good?Doctor Steven Strange (played with just the right amount of swagger by Benedict Cumberbatch) is a rock star neurosurgeon whose talent is only outsized by his ego. When an accident renders him unable to perform surgery anymore, his life falls apart. Turning to Eastern mysticism in the hopes of getting his mojo back, Strange finds an enigmatic sorceress and is drawn into the world of the mystic arts. If that description sounds vague, that’s by design. The less you know, or think you know about the movie the better in my opinion. In fact, stop reading right now and go see it… I’ll wait.Now if you’re going off the trailers, you know that you’re in for a visual treat with this movie, but the trailers don’t do it justice. This is Inception on steroids, a kaleidoscope of shifting environments and bending cityscapes. There were multiple times where I had sensory overload, there was just too much stuff to take in. Doctor Strange has some truly memorable action sequences that talking about would only ruin, so you’ll just have to take my word for it until you can see for yourself. The effects work and planning that would have had to go into the film is incredible! It’s definitely one to watch on the big screen, and contrary to most films that employ the format, the 3D session definitely added another dimension to the proceedings (you knew the pun was coming).
The same marketing campaign that sold the mind-bending visuals failed to adequately showcase the film’s many other virtues.
As good as the visuals are, they are simply a shiny topper on a solid superhero origin story that is well-acted and is way funnier than it needs to be. The same marketing campaign that sold the mind-bending visuals failed to adequately showcase the film’s many other virtues. The cast is all game, from the aforementioned Cumberbatch who is clearly relishing the chance to play hero, to the stoic Chiwetel Ejiofor, an effecting Rachel McAdams, an excellently deadpan Benedict Wong, and the almost alien-like Tilda Swinton, who brings depth and humour to what could have been a stock wise mentor character.Much has been written about the white-washing of an Asian character in regards to Swinton’s The Ancient One (the character was a Tibetan monk in the comics), but it seems like a knee-jerk reaction to put this movie at the centre of a very real issue. The Ancient One in this version of the story isn’t meant to be Asian, and possibly isn’t even a specific gender (although they refer to her as “her”). I think if they did cast it as per the comics it would’ve been just as controversial. They’re damned if they do, damned if they don’t in this case.
This review is basically a rave, let’s be honest, but the film isn’t without its faults. It’s hamstrung by being an origin story in that it has to hit all the expected beats, and rarely deviates from the expected in that regard (except in the action sequences). Another thing that does the film a disservice is the fact that it doesn’t really have an interesting bad guy, which is surprising given that he’s played by Mads Mikkelsen. He just doesn’t get to do much except grunt and run in heavy eye makeup. Lastly, the film’s climax relies on a conceit that seems all too convenient, and you’d be really disappointed if it didn’t then usher in another awesome action sequence. All in all, Doctor Strange is a movie that over-delivers on what was promised. I went in thinking I’d be in for a middling Marvel movie that would have some cool visuals and came away with one of the biggest surprises of the year. A very nice addition to the MCU, and highly recommended.
DOCTOR STRANGE is in cinemas today.
*Make sure you stay until the very end of the credits, because there are not one, but two little extra scenes that add to the goodness!