A former neurosurgeon embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts.
So, ‘Doctor Strange’ then. I’ll admit to being a bit underwhelmed by both the marketing for this film, as well as most of Marvel’s recent output, so despite a strong cast I didn’t have high hopes going into the cinema. ‘Doctor Strange’ mostly met my low expectations and it was reasonably paced and well acted, but I didn’t think this was a particularly good film overall. Given the success of the Marvel cinematic universe over the past few years, it’s no surprise they’ve started expanding into films for some of the more bizarre and unusual characters in their back catalogue, and this is one of the positive upsides of the sheer dominance of the comic book movie over the global box office. ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ was very well received (although not so much by me), and that seems to have buoyed the studio to go weirder still and ‘Doctor Strange’ is their most outlandish movie yet.
I can admire the originality at play in the design and construction of ‘Doctor Strange’, but the crazy visuals and mindbending premise merely serve as window dressing to hide the fact that this is a bog standard superhero origin story and I didn’t find it overly compelling. Benedict Cumberbatch is solid enough in the lead role, although he struggles with some of the chronically bad humour in the script (even for a studio that goes as broad as it possibly can with its humour, ‘Doctor Strange’ is one of the worst) which the likes of Robert Downey Jr can usually bring to life. The rest of the cast list reads more like those found in an Oscar contender than in a comic book adaptation, and I did enjoy a lot of the performances, even if many of the characters aren’t really brought to life. Mads Mikkelsen is the main antagonist, with a stock motivation, but he’s such a good actor that he manages to sell it, and I did enjoy the turns from Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Benedict Wong in particular. Rachel McAdams is also disappointingly underused with a role that feels underwritten and she ends up appearing as nothing more than a generic friend/love interest on the screen.
There’s been a lot of praise for the visuals, and whilst the fight scenes are particularly innovative and exciting (if you can excuse the ‘Inception’ similarities to some degree), the look of the film often feels like an explosion in a glowstick factory, although the folding buildings were pretty cool. It’s always interesting to look at and the kaleidoscopic approach to the design is akin to some kind of drugs trip (this would be a very interesting film to watch with some support). I felt the plot never really went anywhere interesting and the third act feels pretty rushed, leading up to another oversized villain with a booming voice that lives in the sky.
There’s promise in the character of ‘Doctor Strange’ going forward in the MCU, but I found his origin story to be underwhelming, despite an excellent cast and a more ambitious approach than the safe storytelling we’ve started seeing more and more of in major blockbusters. That being said, it breezed by and kept my attention, and it’s much better than the two DC films released this year.
Directed By: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Scott Adkins, Benjamin Bratt and Amy Landecker