With the Marvel juggernaut in full motion, Marvel Studios (complete with a swanky new ident that plays at the start of this film) are now looking at new territory for their cinematic universe to play in. With a fervent desire to not retread on old ground, they have actively sought to breathe new life into their big screen endeavours. By giving new, slightly lesser-known characters the chance to establish their own legacies within their vast and textured tapestry of stories, the Marvel brand have showed a fantastic tradition of innovation and spectacle that always places the emphasis squarely on story and characterisation.
Doctor Strange, in many ways, is Marvel’s most ambitious project to date. Whilst Guardians of the Galaxy was a risky gamble that monumentally paid out, Doctor Strange has a far more difficult path to take. It needs to balance the ‘real’ world with a healthy dose of the fantastical, moreso than Captain America: Civil War. Thankfully, director Scott Derrickson (Deliver Us From Evil, Sinister) has delivered a movie that does almost everything right. It’s a balancing act but for the most part, Doctor Strange ushers in an exciting new era for comic book movies, and one that isn’t afraid to think outside of the (metaphysical) box.
Firstly, the casting is spot on here. Benedict Cumberbatch is brilliant as Stephen Strange, a brilliant but arrogant doctor who has a terrible car accident that changes his life forever. After numerous surgeries and failed rehab, it’s clear that Strange can never regain the full function of his hands. With a career cut painfully short, he begins to desperately seek out alternative remedies in a bid to take back his life.
After meeting a man who overcame massive odds that defied the laws of medical science, Strange goes to Kathmandu in Nepal to seek out answers. There he meets The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), an ageless sorcerer who becomes a mentor to Strange as he begins to expand his mind – and with it discovers more than he ever could imagine.
But with the revelation of the mystical arts comes the realisation of other-worldly threats – namely a former student of The Ancient One named Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), who is seeking immortality. Assisted along the way by his friend and valet Wong (Benedict Wong) and Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) a powerful and idealistic disciple of The Ancient One, Doctor Strange must step up to the challenge in order to protect the world from devastation and destruction.
Cumberbatch perfectly personifies the role, giving the egotistical side of Strange his dues whilst always keeping him a grounded man of principal that’s easy for us to champion. His rapport with everyone is sensational and he looks the part. His fighting sequences are brilliant and he laces every line with strong emotion and a delightful comedic touch. In fact, the film really embraces comedy with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments to be found. Echoing the origin stories of Thor and Iron Man, Doctor Strange is a great balance of action and emotion that delivers a very satisfying blockbuster.
The supporting talent are all 5 star performers with Tilda Swinton clearly having a great amount of fun as The Ancient One. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Benedict Wong delight onscreen and you can always rely on Mads Mikkelsen to deliver a villain of substance and passion.
If there is a downside, it’s that Rachel McAdams isn’t used enough. Her character Christine Palmer is at the centre of many of the films best moments (especially when Strange returns to her life after mastering the ancient arts). She and Cumberbatch share an effortless chemistry and it would have undoubtedly benefited the film if she had been given a bigger role. Hopefully, a sequel to Doctor Strange and the upcoming new Avengers movies will give her more opportunity for screen time.
It’s safe to say that Doctor Strange was made with big spectacle in mind and the effects on show here are staggering. This is without doubt a film you have to witness in IMAX 3D. There’s a lot of CGI on-show but it all compliments the narrative perfectly, creating a startling visual carousel of delights that constantly takes you to new highs. The colours are rich, the grandeur is spectacular and the invention keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Doctor Strange is a great marker of intent for this next phase of Marvel’s cinematic legacy. The story perfectly marries the ordinary with the fantastical, delivering a film that looks as good as it plays. IMAX was made for projects like this and you’ll really benefit from seeing this in as big a screen as possible to really immerse yourself in the effects. And make sure you stay for the two post-credit scenes that set up future Marvel adventures. With Benedict Cumberbatch on fine form, Doctor Strange is a wonderful movie that you would happily make another appointment to see.
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Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott Adkins Director: Scott Derrickson Writer: Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill Released By: Disney/Marvel Studios Certificate: 12A Duration: 115 mins Release Date: 25th October 2016