We have been welcomed to the Galactic Universe already, but now it is Marvel’s time to show off the Mystic Universe with “Doctor Strange”. Profits remain exceptionally strong for the studio, but will the masses take to this story as well as the better known superheroes?
Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a vastly skilled brain surgeon, but his Tony Stark frame of mind leads him to be quite arrogant and desire success greater than company. This gives him the results of being hugely accredited, but not well liked to put it lightly. But in a severe car accident, the nerve endings in his hands are destroyed, and despite the best efforts of his colleagues it looks like he will never perform surgery again. Western Science fails him, so he looks to the Far East for alternative treatments. He meets a group led by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), and is exposed to the infinite realities beyond this one, and a path that may allow him to overcome his injuries.
I will certainly hand it to this movie for providing a defined character for Strange that gives him genuine motivations and reasons for how he reaches this group. The similarities to Tony Stark are unmissable, but the small quirks are enough to set him apart. The main being he is not driven by riches or fame – but instead a drive for personal success for himself. The writing for this opening act is quite strong, building foundations that we can relate to from any drama we have seen before. I’ll give a little shout-out to C. Robert Cargill for his writing, since this first act goes a long way towards getting the film settled in before it all breaks loose.
And by break loose, I mean drop a bunch of LSD in your drink and swap your 3D glasses with a Kaleidoscope. You may have heard the comparisons between this film and the likes of “The Matrix” or “Inception”. Which on many levels ring true, except that the dial is set to What-the-Fuck from the moment it all kicks off. Even in the 2D screening I was at, I was jammed in my sea, eyes wide open in astonishment at the detail and creativity. It is like nothing else you have seen from a major blockbuster, nothing matches it. The reveal of Multiverses smashes at your senses with all the subtlety of a jackhammer being used to crack open a nut. Just remembering back on those scenes now has them replay very vividly. If you like seeing weird Sci-Fi / Fantasy shit, this is right up your street in a big way.
But, let’s not lose track of things and return to how it all progresses. From the reveal, it begins to fall into line of the narrative structure of the “Rise of a Hero” tale very quickly. An unsuspecting person gets shown the world greater than they have seen it, they learn and study to adjust to it, their first battle ends badly, they re-group, gain confidence, save the world, end on a higher point than where they began. The usual. As to whether this is a fault or not if something where I would decide on the latter. It is a Sci Fi trope that has been around since the dawn of blockbusters, the audience laps it all up so long as they root for the hero and enjoy the developed world he/she is in. The world here is for the most part, kept upon Earth so you’re not bombarded with strange places to learn and understand. The ideas are simple in theory, such as a Mirror World as an example.
The cast was very good overall. As you’d expect Cumberbatch delivers a strong performance in the lead role, and seems to be really at home with the character of Strange. His best moments are still in the first act and his return to the Hospital, but those are the times of heightened human emotions and so would always be the ones to play the slow melodic music to. Tilda Swinton turned out a lot better than I was expecting, she evokes the character of the Ancient One 100% and gets her own moments of total badassery. Cumberbatch and herself work together very well, with how they relating to each other ever evolving as the story goes on. Cwiwetel Ejiofor and Rachel McAdams bring a lot to their side characters as well, and shouldn’t go without mention.
If I did have issues to find, it would be with the fact that outside of the bonkers effects and visuals, the core of the story remains for the most part, standard. Nothing you haven’t really seen in a Marvel movie in the past, although the villain has a little more going on than they typically get. It can be a bit easy to get lost in the large scale scenes where the backgrounds are getting particularly complex, and the big enemy at the end looks a bit… meh. I mean, just a big floating head? What they do with the scene is very cool though, but you can predict the use of the technique easily from an early scene.
But I am happy to report that I enjoyed this a lot, probably on the same level as “Thor” or “Ant Man” to place it somewhere on your mental scale of the Marvel films. Not the most gripping or original of narrative structures, but very fun and visually creative to a point where it can at times, even mask up some of the shortcomings. For such a (no pun intended) strange character, Marvel did an excellent job of translating him to the big screen, while at the same time using it as a showcase for their crazy effects tech.
“Doctor Strange” really is worth the watch, and if you get the chance to see it on the big screen, don’t miss it. There’s so much that will have you soberly tripping that this point alone is worth the price of admission. Add a very talented cast and some good initial writing, and I can see myself watching this again for certain.
Thanks for reading!