Doctor Strange the latest film set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is perhaps their least superhero orientated movie to date. This is Marvel’s version of The Matrix with magic to an extent. The capes seen in this film feel more suited to the wizards who occupy the halls of Hogwarts rather than to men wearing tights. The set designs and effects look amazing and very innovative – although clearly emulating Inception – which is no small feat. The film takes place amid a backdrop of multiverses and other dimensions that effortlessly blends together different environments in a very kaleidoscopic fashion that really reinvigorates what would otherwise be standard enough action scenes.
I mentioned that Doctor Strange didn’t feel like a superhero movie – it feels much more like an Indiana Jones type adventure, full of ancient history and mythology that fills your head with possibilities – while managing to bring out the inner kid in you. For all the super powers characters have in other superhero movies, they really do a poor job of making you wish you had that power. In Doctor Strange, it made me wish I could do what he does, I would love to bend matter, easily travel through dimensions and practice some of the dark arts and enter different realities.
Benedict Cumberbatch has always been an unlikeable screen presence to me. Don’t get me wrong, I do like him as an actor – but there’s an inherent arrogance about how he carries himself – that is used to great effect in a lot of his movies. And it’s really used to great effect here – in the earlier scenes – where he is a cocky, self–important surgeon, which makes it all the more pleasurable as his character evolves.
The jokes in the movie, although pretty childish at times, really seemed to land on each occasion. Doctor Strange did a great job of being silly and serious, seemingly transitioning between the two, without taking away from the movie, another feat Marvel seldom achieves in my opinion. There’s also some great slapstick sequences in the movie – Doctor Strange’s cape – acts like the carpet in Aladdin at times and gives us some very amusing moments.
The villain played by Mads Mikkelsen actually has a proper motivation in the movie too! It is a conflicting motivation, that’s so complex when considering the human condition as a whole, that you wonder would you do the same as him given the opportunity. That’s a great question for any film to evoke, let alone in a fun adventure movie.
This is pitch perfect for the type of friendly family fun vibe Marvel usually fails at while at the same time referencing such cinematic royalty as 2001: A Space Odyssey. The movie’s final act felt like a very fresh way of approaching a stale format, and tied in very well to Doctors Strange’s own personal journey. It left me genuinely excited to see what would come next, so much so – for the first time ever – I stayed to watch the post credit scene that has become synonymous with Marvel. It’s a shame this wasn’t released during the summer, Marvel would have had a massive blockbuster on their hands, a blockbuster even non Marvel fans can get behind.
Originally published on Oct 25, 2016 for UK Film Review.
Director: Scott Derrickson
Writers: Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong and Mads Mikkelsen