Doctor Strange Review
By Tara Bonar
Doctor Strange was always going to be the trickiest of Marvel heroes to work on the big screen. He sounds like an 80’s synth-pop star. He is in fact one of the most interesting tricks that Marvel has had up its sleeve. They’ve been biding their time to unleash him in cinematic form.
Doctor Stephen Strange is a brilliant neurosurgeon who is the very best in his field. He is the man for the most impossible of injuries. No task is too difficult for him. But what happens when he has a horrific accident (a stomach churning car crash that feels never ending) that robs him of his ability to hold a pen never mind a scalpel? Who is there to do what only he can? With the medical world failing him he heads to Nepal after a chance encounter with a man who he had rejected as a patient years ago. Strange is a broken man, a millionaire now without a cent to his name and a wild and unruly beard. Will he find his answers at this mystical enclave and return to his high-rise New York apartment and industry dinners?
Strange finds himself at the mercy of The Ancient Once (played by the hypnotic Tilda Swinton) who sees a danger in Strange at first that stops her wanting to teach him the mystic arts. She has been burned by Mads Mikkelsen’s Kaecilius, her former student who has committed a heinous crime in order to pursue his own unethical path.
It is Chiwetel Ejiofor as Karl Mordo that sees more to Strange than his superior ego and self-interest. He sees a man at rock bottom that can be born again.
Treated to a Rocky IV like training sequence we see Strange learning the arts and intricacies of magical spells and mystical wonders. This goes beyond the answer to fixing his hands and becomes his new calling. Strange is thrust into a battle between good and evil with astral projection thrown in for good balance. In a neat scene Strange finds himself back in his old work place in a New York hospital having a very different kind of fight than we’ve ever seen in a Marvel film before.
Cumberbatch succeeds on all levels with bringing Strange to screen. The David Niven of our times. He has the humour (with the exception of a few very out dated jokes), the intelligence and the likeability for a character many will be learning of for the first time. He also might have the best sidekick in a Marvel film with The Cloak of Levitation. I hope we’ll be able to buy one of these…
Marvel continues it’s almost faultless journey in securing the talents of unusual directors. Scott Derrickson might be their most bold choice yet. Derrickson has made a number of horror films in his career (including a Hellraiser film!) and you can see why a director with such a creepy vision can work in a world of dark magic, broken bodies and astral planes. The special effects aren’t just exceptional for Marvel; they’re truly something special in film in general. Think of the first big SFX film you saw where you sat open mouthed and wanting to touch the screen. Star Wars? Jurassic Park? Stargate? The Matrix? Inception? Put them all together and you have the wonders of Doctor Strange. Just imagine being on Disney’s Space Mountain ride while listening to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Throw in the cinematic wonderpiece that is IMAX and you have that added element that will throw you deep and further into Doctor Strange’s world
You can praise the casting in the film, but Marvel just never put a foot wrong there. Tilda Swinton and Chitwel Ejofor are sublime additions and the British trio do wonders to ease the audience into something very unique for a comic book film.
Mads Mikkelsen missed out on playing Malekith the Accursed in Thor 2 because of his taste for human flesh as Hannibal. Lucky break for him and us as his performance as Kaecilius is seductively intense. Kaecillius isn’t a straight forward villain, but a swift and fierce warrior with a disheartened view on the world.
Doctor Strange is a mind-blowing and engaging excursion and a very classy affair.
OUT NOW IN IMAX AND CINEMAS