Review: Doctor Strange (2016)

Benedict Cumberbatch stars as the arrogant neurologist turned powerful sorcerer in the majestic, visually-stunning superhero origin movie ‘Doctor Strange’.

The latest chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) moves away from the blockbuster action genre we are accustom to seeing, and instead go down a path of magic and illusion.

Directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister) and produced by Marvel’s ever present Kevin Feige, we meet the amazing yet self-indulgent Doctor Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) who is more interested in his own ego then other people’s lives.

This is a role in which we have never seen Cumberbatch like this on screen before. His adaptation of Sherlock Holmes likes to show off, but at least he shows his compassionate side. Strange in comparison can only be described as an a****** who is good at his job and has a lot of money, a bit like a certain Tony Stark (better watch your back Robert Downey Jr).

When we see him involved in a horrific car accident which shatters the nerves in his beloved hands and ends his neurology career; he only wants one thing, to get healed and return to work, even if that means pushing away co-worker and former lover Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams).

Our injured yet ignorant hero embarks on a trip to Kathmandu, Nepal and meets the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton).

Swinton delights as the bald-headed sorceress, and after showing Strange the power she possesses, she agrees to teach him, despite his apparent ego that casts a forever growing shadow.

Strange’s allies on screen also add to the many positives of the movie. Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo and Benedict Wong as (coincidentally) Wong bring heart and humour to the story.

It’s like a 15th century temple full of meditating butt-kicking monks, who read ancient books, and use staffs as weapons. But with wifi! Like Mordo says”We aren’t savages!”

About a third into the film we are all exposed to a extremely trippy trip through the multiverse, in a scene we can only kinda compare to 2001: A Space Odyssey. It is really something to behold and admire.

Then there’s the folding of the buildings, which instantly makes one think Inception, the 2010 thriller by Christopher Nolan. Again, it’s impressive but not original.

Mads Mikkelsen does his best to be the threatening Kaecilius. 10 years ago he was playing cards with Daniel Craig in Casino Royale as Le Chiffre, where he also tried his best to be a menacing bad guy. But in both movies he gets underused. More screen-time and character development could have really made him a menacing marvel villain.

The action sequences are, as is the norm with Marvel blockbusters, big and explosive. Buildings are turned and twisted inside out, with New York City turning into what can only be described as a giant monopoly board at one point.

Strange’s two weapons are the Cloak of Levitation, a garment with a mind of its own, and the Eye of Agamotto, a medallion that allows him to reverse time. Not quite the hammer of Asgard or a shield made out of Vibranium, but definitely affective. 

Overall, Doctor Strange is arguably the strongest origin movie in the 14-strong film franchise since Captain America: The First Avenger. It more importantly adds a new dimension to what is already a much widened MCU. It’s almost been a decade since Iron Man came out in cinemas, and since then we already have had the Avengers, space pirates (Guardians of the Galaxy) and now magic sorcerers.

Where does this behemoth of a franchise go from here?

Rating: ****






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