Okay Marvel, we get it. You’re at the top of your game, you’re killing it, and no matter how obscure the comic book or character, you know we’ll shell out for tickets, because you’re absolutely demolishing even the heaviest hitters of the competition. There’s no need to be show-offs.
The latest Marvel hit to roll out is Doctor Strange, following the brilliant yet arrogant neuroscientist Dr. Steven Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who, after a car crash destroys the nerves in his hands, embarks on a spiritual journey to Nepal to discover the secrets of a temple of sorcerers led by the mysterious Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). A bit of a curveball for Marvel, who’s always had a strong foundation in science. Then again, so was Thor. So was Guardians of the Galaxy.
Where Iron Man is the epitome of Marvel’s scientific foundation, Doctor Strange could be Psychedelic Man. Though the sorcery of the film isn’t PROPER magic, more of a “harnessing of energy around you”, this different approach to the world we know so well (compared to the typical Avengers-style punch up) brings an Eastern mysticism to the MCU. In an attempt to regain the use of his hands for surgery, Strange’s quest to learn about the mysterious multiverse brings him closer to heavily-guarded secrets of time and immortality, and into the path of those who wish to harness them. It’s something fresh that the universe definitely needs, yet still achieves the signature humour that Marvel films are known for, and is up there with the best and quirkiest, like Guardians and Ant-Man. Iit even manages to conceal the fact that we’ve seen this Marvel story before; a successful egotist must rebuild his life from nothing and learn to protect himself and others – sound familiar? But Strange is no Stark: he trades fists for wisdom, a principle that follows him from his beginnings as a neurosurgeon right through to facing his foes.
As Steven Strange, Benedict Cumberbatch is extremely enjoyable, funny and likeable in spite of his arrogance. The best surprise is his humour; despite Cumberbatch not being a comedian, like Ant-Man’s Paul Rudd or Guardians’ Chris Pratt, Strange’s smart-assery and goofiness succeeds easily, contrasting well with his imperiousness. His Christine Palmer is in the form of Rachel McAdams, strong and brilliant, and Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Mordo is an interesting mentor-esque foil to Strange, with neither character putting up with any of Strange’s pretension. Benedict Wong’s aptly-named character Wong is a wonderful comedic relief in a film that is at times enormously funny, but Tilda Swinton is the stand out, all knowing yet reserved, and much more complex than she appears.
Mads Mikkelsen also brings a brilliant severity to his bad-guy Kaecilius, a zealot of darkness who’s only minor compared to the true Big Bad. Despite Marvel’s tendency to have less-than-stellar villains, Strange’s adversaries are more fascinating, not merely due to their motives but also the type of fights they demand, as the final showdown proves. This showdown is, as always, spectacular, but not in the way Marvel’s average third-acts usually are: Doctor Strange’s CGI, special effects and fight scenes are spectacular, as director Scott Derrickson creates the many beautiful universes and dimensions that the Doctor Strange stories are known for. From astral fight scenes in hospitals to mirror dimensions that rival those of Inception, Derrickson takes us on a mind-blowing journey across universes that are so vivid and dazzling they simply must exist somewhere. The visuals alone are a reason to watch this film.
Apparently, after the Infinity War movies that we’ve been building up to for years now, Marvel plans to scale back, releasing smaller, focused movies with only one or two character team-ups. You know, like this one: a huge spectacle of an origin story, which puts the entire universe at stake and still manages to give us stunning visuals and introduce us to a collection of complex characters, and still be action-packed and light-hearted, with a cameo or two to get excited over. Though by no means a small-scale film, if this is what Marvel’s “scaled back” films are going to look like, then please, continue to take my money.
I honestly really love this cast. Here’s my list of mytop five films starring the cast of Doctor Strange:
- Spotlight – Rachel McAdams
- The Martian – Benedict Won and Chiwetel Ejiofor
- Hail, Caesar! – Tilda Swinton
- Love, Actually – Chiwetel Ejiofor
- Midnight in Paris – Rachel McAdams
Photos taken from IMDb.com