Mind and matter bending thrill ride.
Marvel movies attract an enormous, passionate fanbase every year. However, Doctor Strange is a big risk for the studio – ask five random people to describe the hero and you’ll see why. He’s not as mainstream, and a bit more outlandish compared to the single dimension heroes of late. But Marvel’s track record has yet to let them down, proven once again by their latest release.
When Dr Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is badly injured in a car crash, he seeks any way to get back to normal. His last option is to go to Nepal, where he meets a group of sorcerers led by the mysterious Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), who agree to help heal him, but end up doing much more.
As an audience the image of bendy buildings isn’t entirely alien (*cough* Nolan), but Doctor Strange takes it to a whole new outrageous level. The effects are simply marvellous, and importantly, they spice up the standard superhero action.
The highlight of the film is a two minute sequence in which Strange is thrown into an astral plane. Remember when Ant-Man entered the quantum realm? Times that by 100 and add A-level drugs. It’s a stunning, psychedelic, kaleidoscopic, otherworldly trip that evokes a rare, so far unfelt sensation – true wonder.
As for the Sorcerer Supreme, Cumberbatch fits the role as perfectly as his Cape of Levitation. He manages to nail both sheer arrogance and courage, with a lasting charisma that makes him such a popular actor. Much of the plot, especially for a Marvel outing, is hugely obscure and at a push, a little silly. Cumberbatch plays it off with a dry humour, keeping us from thinking too much about the lore.
Cumberbatch is awarded the most screen time – obviously – which generally isn’t a reason for the rest of the cast to suffer, but unfortunately it is here. His recurring old flame, played by Rachel McAdams, starts off strong but is soon abandoned until much later. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s character, a sorcerer who helps Strange, has no major significance to the plot other than helping Strange fight and getting annoyed with his unwillingness to do as he’s told – so far *hint hint*.
Tilda Swinton’s bald, near omnipotent character is immediately likeable considering she’s a rather ominous figure. She too has moments of humour (upon Strange’s return from the astral plane, she quips “Have you seen that in a gift shop?”). The antagonist, played by the outstanding Mads Mikkelsen, sadly continues Marvel’s poor villain trend, having next to no impact on the viewer. However, this is Strange’s origin story more than anything else, and damn it’s a good one. It’s just a shame that amidst the innovative, radical effects, you can still sniff out the familiar, predictable formula.
To sum it up…
The implications of Doctor Strange’s entrance to the MCU are spine-tingling. Sorcery, multiple dimensions and The Avengers? Yes please. This is definitely Marvel’s riskiest entry, but it’s paid off massively. A few issues aside, this is the start of something magical.
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Author: Cameron Frew