Remember the old joke. A guy walks into a bar….blah, blah, blah? The punch line was different depending on the person telling it. My personal favourite was a guy walks into a bar and says………Ouch! What the hell is that bar doing there? Doctor Strange is like walking into a bar. You expect to get the same old Marvel drink but end up with unexpected sore knees!
Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a gifted but arrogant neurosurgeon who is injured in a car crash, crippling both his hands. Unable to perform surgery anymore, Strange ventures on a quest to have his hands healed at a secret compound, called Kamar-Taj, in Nepal. Here he meets the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) who opens his mind to other possibilities, dimensions and danger.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has become the most critically and commercially successful franchise in cinematic history to date. Doctor Strange is a welcome but trippy addition to the pantheon of Marvel films.
From its opening moments the viewer is in for a wild ride. The initial action sequence alone, between Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) and The Ancient One, looks like a cross between an Escher painting and Kung Fu Panda, suffering the delirium tremors. The director, Scott Derrickson, was obviously maximising his prescription of synthetic cannabis and benzodiazipines, when completing this mesmerising and beautifully chaotic series of visuals. Overall, it is given a very unique tone and feel from the other Marvel films.
Furthermore, the vision of Doctor Strange could be viewed as highly complex. There is potential risk with straying from the winning formula of Marvel story telling. Introducing magic, other dimensions, and fluctuations in the space-time continuum into the narrative, is difficult at best, without it sounding as ridiculous as a bunch of Hare-Krishnas ordering a dozen Big Macs at Mcdonalds then after partying at the Playboy Mansion. However, similar to Donald Trump winning the American election, the impossible can somehow be unbelievably achieved (though Trump winning is even more bewildering than some parts of this movie). The screenplay by Derrickson, Spaights and Cargill manages to somehow mix whit and pathos with extravagant set pieces whilst still grounding it within a mostly believable reality.
The only downside to this amazing hyper real, mind bending, extra-dimensional, acid trip is the lack lustre quality of the villain. Unfortunately, nearly ten years into the Marvel road journey, the only worthy antagonists of note have been Loki and Ultron (with Red Skull and maybe Zemo finishing a close second). Apart from these, Kaecilius, like most of the other Marvel not so good guys, has been sourced from the local “Bad Blokes – Just Add Water” franchise. Instant. Bland. Down the S-bend in the morning!
However, the cast of Doctor Strange acquit themselves very well. Benedict Cumberbatch, in the main role, seems born to play the obnoxious, self centered Doctor. One finds it hard to believe anyone else could fit this role, including what could have been, with Joaquin Phoenix. Furthermore, Tilda Swinton and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Mordor) give such earnest performances, that one could easily mistake Doctor Strange as a West End production of the Royal Shakespeare Company instead of a blockbuster superhero movie.
Doctor Strange is a very well made and incredibly unique film when compared to the Marvel stable. Although some parts are potentially too mind bending for the casual movie goer and the villain is as forgettable as whatever Kim Kardashian is saying next, there is still enough character development, action set pieces and laugh out loud moments to keep anyone entertained.
Overall, I give this film 3.25 out 5 chillies. Mild but not too hot for my Caucasian brethren.