[FILM REVIEW] Doctor Strange

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Director: Scott Derrickson

Screenwriter: Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson, C.Robert Cargill

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Rachel McAdams

Runtime: 115 mins

Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi

 

Review by Dave Griffiths

 

If you asked a Family Feud survey audience to name a list of Marvel superheroes it’s highly unlikely that many would mention Doctor Strange. In a universe of consisting of big guns like Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and Spider-Man it is hardly surprising that Doctor Strange is considered one of the lesser known heroes but that hasn’t stopped Marvel for entrusting the next film in the franchise to Mr. Strange himself.

For those that haven’t read the comics Doctor Strange is the alter-ego of Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict CumberbatchBlack Mass), a gifted neuro-surgeon whose career is ruined after an accident leaves his hands badly damaged. Desperate to find a cure he leaves behind his romantic interest, Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdamsSerlock Holmes) and soon finds himself learning about a world of mysticism and sorcery as he trains with Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor12 Years A Slave) and Wong (Benedict WongThe Martian) under the watchful eye of The Ancient One (Tilda SwintonThe Chronicles Of Narnia).

But as Strange soon begins to hastily learn all there is to know about this strange new world he is also brought into a war that sees Kaceilius (Mads MikkelsenKing Arthur) devise a plan to destroy the universe.

The first thing you need to know about Doctor Strange is that if you’re expecting a film in the same vein of any the other Avenger movies than you are in for a very big surprise. A lot of people thought Ant-Man was the black sheep in the Avenger universe but here director Scott Derrickson has created a film that is more like Inception meeting head-on with a film from the Harry Potter franchise.

There is no argument about the fact that Derrickson has created a film that looks visually stunning. Scenes of cities folding back on each other looks amazing on the big screen, thanks to some talented special effects boffins based right here in Melbourne, while a lot of the battle scenes take the feel of the fights that we saw in Green Lantern. But while the film looks good the story begins to fall away, a real shame when you consider that early on the scenes between Strange and Christine really create the feeling that this is going to be a film with a serious edge.

The storyline of Doctor Strange begins to weaken because the magic of Strange’s universe is too difficult to explain in just under two hours of screen time. The film tries to pack in all that information as it shows Strange in training, much the same way Batman Begins did, but it still feels rushed. It then quickly finds Strange in a battle against Kaecilius, a one-dimensional bad guy that the screenwriting team seems to have forgotten to give a back-story or characterisation to… something that seems to happen pretty often in the Marvel universe.

Despite that massive weakness though there is no way you could ever call this a bad film. Not only does the film look visually spectacular but it also introduces us to another side of Benedict Cumberbatch. When I first heard about the casting of Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange it just didn’t feel like it would work. Cumberbatch is not an actor known for playing tough characters but here he excels and totally becomes the character… even managing to deliver some wise-ass quips along the way that would make Robert Downey Jnr. jealous.

Cumberbatch is well supported by Tilda Swinton who as usual is at the top of her game. Rachel McAdams is also well suited to her role but is never given enough airtime… the same came be said for Chiwetel Ejiofor and Benedict Wong who both do great jobs despite playing one dimensional characters.

While Doctor Strange doesn’t reach the dizzy heights that Civil War did it is still a worthy entry into the Marvel franchise. It does consist of style over substance but still introduces a very interesting character into the fray. The next exciting thing for Marvel fans will be getting to see Benedict Cumberbatch getting to exchange quips with the likes of Hemsworth and Downey Jnr. as he well and truly earns his stripes in the universe.

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