DOCTOR STRANGE is a superhero I know nothing about. All I knew of the movie was what I had seen on a trailer a few times in cinemas, never saw any TV advertising and all was quiet on the net front. Is this the most under-marketed Marvel movie to date? Or am I just out of the mainstream loop a little more these days? If all you knew was from the trailers, like me, then even this is a much more different movie than advertised. DOCTOR STRANGE is easily one of the best Marvel movies I have seen in quite a while. It is out now from Marvel/ Disney, is rated M and runs for 115mins.
DOCTOR STRANGE SYNOPSIS
In layman’s terms DOCTOR STRANGE is set in the standard Marvel universe and even in the same city as the Avengers Tower. It’s lead is an arrogant tool called Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) who is an ace neurosurgeon capable of greatness. However he is too arrogant and too rockstar for his own good and has a terrible car accident. In said car accident he destroys his hands and will get movement back but his neurosurgery days are behind him. He will stop at nothing to get his hands back to perfect and in his search hears of a spiritual (of sorts) treatment in Nepal.
Off he trots to Nepal, where he meets Tripitaka, apparently on loan from Monkey Magic and played by my goddess, Tilda Swinton. She is known as “The Ancient One” and while the Avengers maintain the physical world her “cult” controls the alternate dimensions. Tripitaka had an ex pupil, Kaecilius, who went bad. Kaecilius is Mads Mikkelsen channeling his Hannibal Lector in a more metaphysical gipsy role. He will stop at nothing to uncover the secrets to immortality.
Doc Odd is only in it for the chance to get his arrogant tool self back in one piece. But the more he learns the more he realises he can be much more than a surgeon.
Besides a few flaws DOCTOR STRANGE is a marvelous movie that never relents in epic action and amazing special effects. It feels more subdued than most of the other recent Marvel movies and offers one of the best origin stories in the superhero cinematic universe. It has a somewhat Asian Nepalese monk-like mysticism to it and I have always found this interesting. DOCTOR STRANGE takes the INCEPTION world of special effects to new heights and seeing this in 3D is a must.
Director Scott Derrickson has never really done anything besides horror. THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, my all time scariest horror movie ever made, SINISTER, and DELIVER US FROM EVIL. He also made the most ludicrous horrendous sci-fi remake in THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL but I am going to ignore that. I honestly expected this to be much darker coming from Derrickson. Marvel never truly manages to get a really dark bad guy. The dark forces they always battle manage to have a slight comical element and it does not differ in DOCTOR STRANGE. Even the pure evil of the inner actor of Mads Mikkelsen failed to appear and the big bad evil alien devil thing was more funny than scary.
We can all do with Benedict Cumberbatch doing whatever on screen. He has such a unique presence that is unusual from the norm, it gets under your skin and half the time he irritates me but I can’t stop watching him. I find he regularly over enunciates but this is most of his charm. It weirded me out with his American accent until I got used to it. And at times I felt the attempts at humour that Robert Downey Jnr regularly has in Marvel didn’t suit Cumberbatch but at the same time the slight oddness of it all suited the character. He truly appeared like a superhero that has just been given powers, trying to find his feet.
As for Tripitaka, I mean The Ancient One, aka Tilda Swinton. I LOVE HER but the character was underused. When Tilda is in your film – just throw her screentime dammit!!
Mads Mikkelsen is also great in whatever he does but I have to say it – he was miscast in this. It didn’t work for me. And his posse of men always looked like Ukranian Cossack Dancers who were about to bust moves.
And rounding out the leads is Chiwetel Ejiofor, another superb performer but a flawed character. At the beginning he was a strong disciple who had a pretty crap story arc. This is more personal but I wanted greatness from Mordo, instead we got half baked. I can see him shining in the sequel.
THE ONE THING THAT TOTALLY PISSED ME OFF:
Music is the soul of a film, the score is always there and is conducting your emotional bind to the movie. Michael Giacchino is an epic composer with more credits than I can imagine. His first BIG feature film was THE INCREDIBLES – for the love of GOD – one of the greatest animations of all time. His resume since this time has been an unending list of A-Grade films. Giacchino’s composition on DOCTOR STRANGE is sublime with all the big notes, it hits the right chords and plays your emotions on a master stroke.
However said master stroke is a lazy steal of his own score from the STAR TREK movies. It was nearly note for note and so much so that when Doc Odd is in another dimension I was expecting Kirk and crew to come to his aid. My mind is baffled.
I have basically listed everything I disliked about DOCTOR STRANGE. I was harder on this movie because I enjoyed it so much. The action, the special effects and the big scenes heal all and left me mesmerised. Easily the best visual movie of 2016. It moves fast and it never relents. My parents are off to see it for a second time this week because they want to see what they missed. And don’t forget to stay until the end – there are two credit scenes that must be seen.
Jason King owns, writes and edits Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the Australian movie industry for 26yrs. Furthermore he loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan.
** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.