<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Scott Derrickson. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Micahel Stuhlbarg, Benedict Wong, Benjamin Bratt
Running Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is getting so big now that DC and Warner Bros. are going to have an impossible task of catching up. Unless they can do something different…
The problem with introducing new characters like Doctor Strange, who are relatively unknown ‘super heroes’ as compared to the likes of Captain America and Iron Man, is that most people aren’t going to be that excited. What will get them to go watch is the fact that it’s a Marvel film and we know that they’re all interconnected; so we kind of have to watch if we want to know what’s happening. Smart!
What would interest me about Doctor Strange would be magic and an element of the mystical. Like Mandrake the magician, he’s an enigma.
In this film, Doctor Strange is less marvellous magician and more arrogant comedian who can play some nifty tricks with the help of a magic red cape that’s sorta like Aladdin’s magic carpet. It totally steals the show.
Another problem with Doctor Strange as a movie is that it has a few plot holes. Why would this intelligent, super skilled and talented surgeon who relies on his hands and eyes to restore life and gain fame put himself behind the wheel of a racecar driving impetuously through winding roads on a hill? And when Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) has to deal with the loss of his hands we don’t really see the gravity of his loss. Neither do we get the forced romance between him and doctor Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams).
So when he’s exhausted all logical possibilities of repairing his precious hands and restoring his career, and decides to backpack around Nepal in search of a mystical place called Kamar-taj, you’re even more perplexed as to why someone like him would do that. Desperation perhaps. But when he’s confronted by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), who promises he’ll heal himself with the power of his mind, he balks at her in disbelief. And then very quickly changes his mind with a willingness to learn about spells and parallel dimensions. I thought he just wanted his hands and his career back? Oh well.
Without any explanation as to the ‘how’, ‘what’, ‘why’ of anything he’s soon an experienced sorcerer who doesn’t care about surgery any more. How he becomes so powerful and why he is the ‘chosen one’ is never explained. The evil Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) has an even less motivational story. He’s just looking for eternal life because he thinks death is a cruel joke. His background is never explained even though he does a good enough job.
Oh and the red cape is so super in the film. It should get its own Marvel film for sure. It thrashes the bad guys, protects Strange and even caresses him lovingly. It helps him fly around and withstand all sorts of blasts and impacts. It’s funny and charming and very handsome. For me, the red cape is the real hero of the film and not the brilliant CGI.
You’ve seen the CGI of course. It reminds us of the landscape bending, room twirling, distortion of perception scenes in Inception. Pretty impressively choreographed with the fight scenes, I have to say. Then there’s a psychedelic world that Mr. Doctor is propelled through that’s so trippy some have suggested getting high while watching it for an even better experience. I have to agree that it is worthy of an IMAX experience.
There’s lots of that Marvel humour you’ve come to expect and rely on here. It’s childish and juvenile but hey, it works for them. But it’s nothing you haven’t seen in any of their other films. The origin story is pretty half-baked and uninteresting. It seems a bit rushed too. By the end you realise it’s just a way to introduce a new character for a future Avengers film. Doctor Strange is sort of like Ant-Man in that sense.
PS: There are two end credit scenes you can stay for. One has a cameo by an Avenger.