On paper, the plot for Doctor Strange is another familiar tale in the Marvel universe: egotistical surgeon (played by Sherlock Star Benedict Cumberbatch) crashes his car and damaging his hands. No longer able to operate, he seeks a cure where he discovers a new power and must save the world. If Tony Stark cast spells instead of repulsor beams you’d pretty much have the idea.
Where this one beats Iron Man is the cast. From Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One, Chiwetal Ejiofor as Mordo and Benedict Wong as Wong there is much being done to flesh out characters beyond just the star. Swinton getting the role was an unexpected choice for fans but that perfectly describes her impact too as she plays the perfect counterpoint to Cumberbatch’s self absorbed Strange – she has plenty of great moments throughout the film.
Their enemy in this movie is Kaecilius, an old student of the Ancient One, played by Hannibal star Mads Mikkelson who has dreams of immortality to go with the craziest smoky eye you’ll ever see. The shame is he only gets one real moment to have a verbal face off with Strange and it is perhaps the single best moment for the character too.
So… does Cumberbatch fit the bill for Strange? Early on it’s hard to tell because initial stages of his origin story play out extremely fast so you’re left with only a couple of moments to determine his character before the accident. But once he gets the cape on you can see he’s in it for the long haul and the end credits teaser provides some genuinely exciting prospects for the future.
The trailers for the film showed off some of the “Inception on drugs” visuals but that barely scratches the surface of what the effects artists have accomplished here. Seeing worlds fold into themselves makes me think it has been inspired as much by M.C. Escher as it has been by Steve Ditko’s original work.
One particular battle reminds me of a Bayonetta boss fight mixed with Escher, fractal patterns and a CGI artist’s fever dream. Stuff is flying around is weird and wonderful ways and everyone powers on through it like they’re taking a walk in the park. All very preposterous but looks great on the big screen.
It’s a fun film to watch that lays out the foundations of what to expect from this new world of magic within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. One thing I regret is that I could only watch the 2D version (only sessions available) as I’d imagine it’d be far more impressive in 3D – I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for the Blu-ray.