After the legendary masterpiece that was Captain America: Civil War earlier this year, would Doctor Strange manage to maintain that level of freshness and surprise? The answer is definitely yes as, yet again, the Marvel Cinematic Universe delivers another spectacular adventure. Like Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, this is a film where the property spawned off from it was relatively unknown to the public eye, but it still manages to deliver on almost every level. It may not be the best entry in the MCU, but it’s certainly right up there with the very best of them. Like those other films, this film takes the essence, soul, spirit and flavour of their respective hero’s comic book history and translates it to the screen perfectly.
While this film takes the traditional origin story route, it never comes off as tired or cliché. It’s very faithful to Strange’s tragic backstory, but takes some unexpected dark twists and turns along the way – a decision that pays off considering Doctor Strange fits so easily into the realms of fantasy and horror. Like Tony Stark, Strange is charmingly arrogant (a bit of a dick, perhaps) but he never comes across as a carbon copy of the Iron Man, with Cumberbatch making the character very much his own. Plus, because of the transformation he goes through and the connection he shares with Rachel McAdams’ Christine Palmer, you can still connect with him on a human level.
Visually, this is the most eye-popping Marvel movie you’re ever likely to see – the psychedelic stuff seen in the trailers is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what to expect. Director/co-writer Scott Derrickson manages to pull off the outrageous, world-bending visuals without making it alienating for the audience – part of which involves mystical windows that can be altered to reach other parts of the world or buildings folding into themselves. It’s a surreal, trippy and mind-warping experience (especially during the finale) paying dutiful homage to Steve Ditko’s extreme visual art style. Michael Giacchino’s score complements the surrealist mood and atmosphere perfectly, making it one of the most memorable scores in recent superhero movies.
In terms of casting, Benedict Cumberbatch simply is Doctor Strange, delivering a magnetic, mesmerising performance. Like Robert Downey Jr. with Iron Man or Tom Holland with Spider-Man, Cumberbatch was born to play Strange and cements himself as one the most iconic heroes within the MCU. Despite the controversy surrounding the whitewashing/gender-swapping of the Ancient One, this film sideswipes all those concerns and Tilda Swinton is a commanding screen presence through and through. Plus, the dynamic between Strange and Wong (played by namesake Benedict Wong) is humorous and amusing, and will hopefully be developed further in future films.
Much like Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, Marvel took a big gamble with Doctor Strange. It’s a gamble that has paid off big-time, resulting in one of the best superhero movies of the past decade. It’s weird, surreal, fantastical and indeed… strange, but that’s all part of its unique charm. True, some story elements could’ve been explored more and the villainous aspects needed more polish, but these are only minor complaints in the grand scheme of the things. This is one of Marvel’s finest outings and the infinite possibilities available for this character and his world is enough to get even the most hardcore fans (like me) excited for the future.
Dir: Scott Derrickson
Scr: Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott Adkins, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton
Prd: Kevin Feige
DOP: Ben Davis
Music: Michael Giacchino
Run time: 115 mins
Doctor Strange is out in cinemas now.