Making it's bow in the UK and a few other key markets over a week before it is due to debut in the States, Doctor Strange is the 14th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel Studios has used this release schedule for it's last several films, and they've pretty much all been massive hits. But, what can US audiences expect from the film on November 4th? Is it the next leap forward for the studio, or their first major misstep?
In truth, we'd say it's neither. Doctor Strange is an extremely watchable film and another very solid entry in the MCU. It takes cinemagoers into very different realms than have been seen before in the series. At times the visuals on display are some of the most amazing to ever be committed to celluloid. The special effects and CGI work in the movie are uniformly exceptional. It's a wonderfully trippy, colourful journey to take at times.
Doctor Strange Review
However, we couldn't help shake the familiar feeling of the Marvel formula rearing its head. This is a complaint which has been steadily growing with recent MCU movies. Benedict Cumberbatch's Dr Stephen Strange begins the movie as an arrogant, sarcastic jerk (like Tony Stark). He is entirely self-centred and must go on a heroes journey to learn how to be a better man by the films end (like Thor). Along the way he learns and perfects an entirely new realm of expertise, in this case the mystic arts.
He then tangles with a fairly forgettable villain (Mads Mikkelsen's Kaecilius). This villain is really only there to be the set-up for a bigger villain still to come. It all culminates in another epic storm of CGI. You know the drill: cities being destroyed around our heroes amid a big swirling purple light in the sky.
In this instance, the story in Doctor Strange isn't anything to write home about. Audience's may find their attention wavering from time to time. Mostly when the various rules and explanations of the Sorcerer Supreme's spells are taking prominence. Where the movie thumps it's high points, though, is in the performances and the direction. Cumberbatch is perfect as Strange, with his 'Hugh Laurie as Dr House' style American accent working well. He brings the right amount of gravitas to the role, and is adept with the comedic moments as well. It will be a joy to see him interact with The Avengers in upcoming movies.
The Players of Doctor Strange
Chiwetel Ejiofor and Tilda Swinton are similarly top notch in their roles as Baron Mordo and The Ancient One, respectively. Ejiofor sells us on Mordo's convictions and is a good physical presence in action scenes too. And though there was some 'whitewashing' controversy over Swinton's casting as a character who is Asian in the comics, she is brilliant at playing an otherworldly character who is wise beyond the grasp of us mere mortals. Rachel McAdams is given short shrift, though, in an underwritten role as Strange's love interest Dr Christine Palmer. The chemistry between McAdams and Cumberbatch is non-existant, and she disappears from the story for long periods at a time.
Director Scott Derrickson, mostly known for horror movies like Sinister, is arguably the main star for much of the film. He shepherds the action well, and the gravity-defying and city-turning sequences are a real highlight. They are reminiscent of Inception, no doubt, but the spectacle is taken ten times further here. Derrickson fits perfectly into the MCU's stable of directors and we look forward to whatever he does next.
Overall, then, Doctor Strange is well worth a watch and should definitley be seen on the biggest screen possible. It just mightn't live too long in the memory.
Doctor Strange (2016)
Rating - 7/10
As a bit of a twist, the film's star is its director. The visuals on display are some of the most amazing to ever be committed to celluloid. The special effects and CGI work in the movie are uniformly exceptional. It's a wonderfully trippy, colourful journey to take at times.