Doctor Strange proves that while Marvel know they’ve got a winning formula they’re not afraid to let things get a little strange…
Benedict Cumberbatch plays the titular doctor, Stephen Strange, an arrogant neurosurgeon who’s hands are crippled in a horrific car accident, with his life collapsing around him Strange seeks a way to restore his hands.
This leads him to X where he meets Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and the mysterious Ancient One (Tild Swinton) who, while unable to heal Stephen, open his eyes to the mystical world teaching him a whole host of magical abilities.
Unfortunately for the good doctor it’s not all waving wands and pulling rabbits out of as a that an evil former student of The Ancient One, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelson) has put a plan into motion that could doom the world.
Doctor Strange is a breathtaking and mind bending film that while firmly set in the patented Marvel formula isn’t afraid to take risks while still managing to entertain.
The most striking thing about the film is the spell-work and visuals. Remember the scene in Inception when Paris is folded like a piece of paper? Well director Scott Derrickson takes that core concept and dials it all the way up past eleven to a number that the human tongue can’t pronounce but needless to say it’s pretty big.
Trust me, you haven’t seen a chase scene through New York City until you’ve seen one where the city inverts in on itself, turns into spiralling fractals and then suddenly reverts to normal.
The wonderfully crafted and trippy visuals are genuinely astounding and mark Strange as Marvel’s most visually ambitious film to date, but this film isn’t just a flashy LSD inspired trip to the CGI dimension.
The cast all do a wonderful job at wrestling with the frankly bewildering explanation of magic, elevating what could have been an extremely campy film into something with a bit more substance similar to Kenneth Branagh’s work on the first Thor.
It helps that the film sticks to its own rules concerning magic giving the film some internal logic which contrasts sharply with the reality bending visuals which dominate the fight scenes.
Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton are the ones burdened with some of the scripts more clunky explanations but their prodigious acting chops allow them to carry that weight with ease.
Now without heading into the dangerous spoiler dimension I do want to talk about the third act. I think even most impassioned of Marvel fans will admit that their films tend to hit a snag in the third act.
It’s become something of a running gag that super hero films, especially Marvel movies, end with a giant blue space laser firing into the sky in an action scene that so frenetic and frantic that you’re just left bewildered.
Thankfully Strange manages to avert the dreaded space laser ending for something a lot more odd and dare I say more cerebral than a fight.
Unfortunately Doctor Strange isn’t completely magical, Kaecilius is another in a long line of 2 dimensional villains from Marvel and the humour, while funny, is somewhat misplaced.
Doctor Strange isn’t a perfect film but it is an interesting and entertaining movie that will be enchanting audiences around the world.