Scott Derrickson / Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofer, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton / Action-Fantasy / 2016 / 12A / 115mins
After 13 films, you would think Marvel Studios would be rather comfortable in their beds of money, watching their own movies on gold plated TVs. No.14 is evidence they’re getting a little bored – Doctor Strange is the cue to start getting creative, but director Derrickson fails to do that.
Renowned neurosurgeon/prat Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) crashes his Lamborghini and damages his precious, gifted hands beyond repair. Cue existential tantrum and a distant soul-search to the Himalayas where the Ancient One (Swinton) awaits with a cure Strange desires. SURPRISE: a baddie’s on the loose, determined to plunge the world into darkness. Who will save the day?
Cumberbatch’s performance is *COUGH* cumbersome *COUGH*. Seriously, he’s woefully unfit for the role. Strange’s personality is… well, does he have one? It’s constantly shifting: one moment jerk, next scene a joker, a sprinkling of newfound sorrow in the next. Strange doesn’t come off as profound, he comes off as schizophrenic. He certainly lives up to his name, this fella.
The transition to ‘hero’, which propels the whole plot, is forced Marvel fodder, and save for his striking facial features, Cumberbatch doesn’t bring much to the table. But oooh, watch out – he looks strange! Masterstroke casting. I bet Derrickson gave himself a pat on the back for that one.
Was Rachel McAdams’s love-interest character even needed? Her usefulness to the core plot was trivial, and yet the sad thing is McAdams was probably the best actor. The others are nondescript. Tilda Swinton was more chirpy than I had anticipated, Mikkelsen put on his dirtiest face and got paid mega-bucks. It’s Marvel cheese. It’s a sad affair indeed if the best actor was in fact the cloak (itself an Aladdin magic carpet rip off).
Drum roll please for the main event. The special effects: I loved them. If the film was a collage of wacky, dimension-busting then it would have been worth the ticket price and then some. An inward voyage into Strange’s mind and beyond was the pinnacle – a great hark back to 2001‘s psychedelic trip, spiked with a few more tabs of LSD for good measure. Similar mesmerising, mystical shenanigans almost dilute the hero-origin format. Derrickson is close to an event horizon but, in a world of five second attention spans, I’m afraid CGI-induced hypnosis doesn’t bode well. People will cotton on that without the effects there isn’t much point to the film.
Doctor Strange was the perfect point for Marvel Studios to have a little courage and fledge the nest. For the casual moviegoer, this is a great standalone MCU film to stumble across. But for all the Inception-style terramorphing, the clipped wings of the Marvel formula hampers the whole operation. Off-putting comedy. Unnecessary pop scores. Strange is meant to be strange, not relatable. A trailer-had-the-best-bits film, yet somehow Doctor Strange remains one of the top-end Marvel films.
Film as a Film – 2 / Target Audience – 3 / General Audience – 3
Doctor Strange is in cinemas now
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