Doctor Strange, on the face of it, is a hard sell. It, like Guardians of the Galaxy, treads new ground for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, integrating magic into a world of science and myth.
This review does not contain spoilers.
There’s so many things that could go wrong; the magic look could look silly (like Dungeons and Dragons, the Movie), the language too arcane, with characters too unapproachable.
Of course, this is a Marvel movie (now rebranded Marvel Studios) and none of these fears are realized.
Doctor Strange is as visually unique a movie as you’ll ever see. The word “spectacle” really doesn’t do it justice. The film is beautiful, and whimsical; it’s visually complex. The director, Scott Derrickson, deserves acclaim for conjuring a world a world of magic that, while fantastic, is not completely farfetched.
Credit too goes to Doctor Strange’s editors. Piecing together the intricate action sequences could not have been easy, but the transitions seem completely natural.
It’s in those action sequences that Doctor Strange, shines. The fight sequences are innovative and stunning in an “Inception meets The Matrix” kind of way, but despite that, they are never a challenge to follow.
The story is compelling, and the arc of Doctor Stephen Strange, arrogant neurosurgeon is enjoyable. It takes time to unwind to an utterly satisfying conclusion.
There were. occasionally, some sequences that felt a little too contrived to be real (real being a relative term when talking about a movie about sorcerers) but thankfully these were few and far between.
Finally, the greatest strength of Marvel Studios may be its casting department. They are once again able to bring together a mesmerising ensemble that performs magically. (Hah)
Benedict Cumberbatch is flawless as Strange; he’s given the room to fly and he does. At times he is arrogant beyond measure, tortured without equal, and wise beyond understanding, and yet the transition is effortless. Prior to viewing a point of concern was his American accent. Cumberbatch is so identified with his natural British, it could have been distracting…were he not such a talented actor. In Strange, he melts seamlessly into his American accent and you don’t make the connection after a few minutes.
There is a reason he is one of the most sought after actors in the world and it`s all there in Doctor Strange.
There was much furor over the casting of Tilda Swinton as Strange`s mentor the Ancient One; in the comics, the character was male and asian. Tilda Swinton is an incomparable talent and casting her as the Ancient One was an inspired turn; not only does it allow for a funny visual gag, it serves the narrative well: “Forget what you think you know.”
Stephen Strange expects to meet an elderly asian man, only to meet a slight, hairless woman, whose eyes are charged with endless knowledge.
It is perfection and it’s why Marvel Studios makes such excellent films; they are willing to deviate from their source material if it serves their story. Slavish devotion to canon does no one justice.
Marvel Studios excels at building enthralling narratives for its heroes, but generally (with the noted exception of Tom Hiddelston’s turn as Loki) they have been unable to create interesting villains.
Not so, here. Mads Mikkelsen’s Kaecilius is wholly compelling; mostly because, from his perspective, what he is doing isn’t wrong. And in fact his goals are laudable…from a certain point of view.
While it may not be Marvel Studios’ best film, nonetheless Doctor Strange is spellbinding.
Doctor Strange is in theatres now.