At long last, the Sorcerer Supreme makes his big screen debut in Marvel’s Doctor Strange. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Doctor Stephen Strange. He’s an arrogant, bordering-on-cruel neurosurgeon who is nevertheless respected due to his incredible dexterity. And in the great tradition of fictional medical geniuses, noble friends like Rachel McAdams’ Christine Palmer sticks with him despite his egotistic antics. But one night, Strange goes barreling through a treacherous crash in his Lamborghini that renders his hands unusable, destroying his career.
Stephen Strange has one of Marvel’s most clear-cut origin stories, which makes the long delay in bringing the character to the big screen somewhat baffling. Then again, the idea of a superhero who does most of his crime-fighting as a disembodied astral being was, no doubt, daunting to even the most open-minded filmmakers. But after eight years of confounding everyone who has annulled Marvel Studios’ ability to bring some of its most outlandish comic book characters to the screen, the time was right for Doctor Strange. Oddly enough his roots as a comic book creation have ended up working both for and against the movie.
Under the direction of horror movie specialist, Scott Derrickson, Doctor Strange lives up to its advance billing as perhaps Marvel’s weirdest and most visually audacious movie yet. The acting, the visual fireworks and Michael Giacchino’s distinctive, Eastern-influenced score all go a long way toward disguising the fact that we are once again watching an origin story.
The cast, one of Marvel’s finest, definitely sells everything. Benedict’s aristocratic presence and simmering intelligence make him the perfect Strange. Much alike Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man or Chris Evans as Captain America, it instantly becomes difficult to imagine anyone else playing the role. Tilda Swinton already seems like she’s from a different realm, so playing a thousand-year-old wizard isn’t much of a stretch. She tackles this with serenity and a mischievous twinkle in her eye. Chiwetel Ejiofor (from the spectacular 12 Years A Slave) as Baron Mordo and Benedict Wong as the librarian of Kamar-Taj, bring out the appropriate demeanor and even though Marvel villains continue to lag behind the gold standard of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, Mads Mikkelsen(of Hannibal fame) manages to inject a little complexity and humour into his otherwise standard bad guy.
By forcing themselves to make an action film, Marvel has come up with some delightfully cool set pieces where the combatants are conjuring magic weapons, manipulating gravity, and even reality so that the various battlefields become a violent kaleidoscopic messwhile retaining physical mass. One major set-piece involves people fighting in real time but the explosions and debris of the city collapsing around them is actually moving backwards in time. These jaw-dropping sequences make the price of the ticket worth it all on their own.
The production values are aces, the action scenes are inventive, the visuals are gorgeous and the cast are terrifically-realised characters whose world you can’t wait to see more of and whose integration in the broader Cinematic Universe makes the prospect of several future films all the more exciting… even if their debut film could have stood to be a just a bit more strange.
Tamim Bin Zakir aka Shwag_Lord(PSN ID) is an enraged individual who seldom thinks of being generous to others. Feel free to devour his tranquility at firstname.lastname@example.org