Movie Review: 'Doctor Strange'
Opened: 25 October 2016 (UK)
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott Adkins, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton
Director: Scott Derrickson
Producer: Kevin Feige
Once disparaged and ridiculed, Marvel has single handedly turned its own fortunes around with a vault of rich comic book material, by casting stellar talent in almost all of their movies, making unprecedented stars of some while consolidating the statuses of others, with their bizarre out of the box superheroes, and their latest, Doctor Strange, too is a worthy addition to their already established comic book franchise.
With eye popping visuals, spectacular set pieces and razor sharp wit, director Scott Derrickson's tongue remains firmly in cheek as he directs a superb cast making Doctor Strange an unexpected blockbuster of epic proportions, rivalled probably only by Marvel's own kooky heroes Guardians Of The Galaxy and the studio's first ensemble movie The Avengers, proving yet again, that you can still make engaging superhero movies out of the most unconventional, bizarre characters if you have the right team to back it.
Stuck in development hell for over a decade and based on a wildly imaginative and self deprecating screenplay co-written by Derrickson himself, Doctor Strange revolves around a hot-shot neurosurgeon, Dr Stephen Strange, who's undeniably brilliant at what he does but has an equally huge ego to boot. When a fatal car crash leaves him mortally wounded and his career in tatters, he seeks refuge in a mysterious shrine in Nepal, where he encounters The Ancient One, (Swinton) a spiritual yet eccentric sorceress, who teaches him how to practice and harness the use of mystical powers that alter the course of both his life and destiny forever.
The concept of Doctor Strange sounds ludicrous on paper and forces you to wonder how such a talented cast got on board at all, but it's all delivered with such vivid imagination, and the script itself is so sharp and quick, it seems like a bit of a no-brainer, with each of them looking like they're having a blast despite mouthing the most implausible lines, and enacting scenes that must have sounded outrageous at the onset.
It helps of course, that Cumberbatch succumbs fully to the character and is at his dry, sardonic best, delivering lines with dripping sarcasm and gusto and a tinge of arrogance that only he can get away with. It's not that the rest of the cast do any less though. Swinton somehow manages to keep a straight face throughout the silliness of it all and injects her androgynous character with the requisite depth and credibility, while McAdams despite a smaller part, thankfully, isn't reduced to a glorified damsel in distress, bringing to her character a quiet confidence and poise that she's become so renown for. Ejiofor too brings an uneasy edge to his character as a loyal disciple acing the action sequences – his part could have been fleshed out a tad, but I suspect Derrickson is probably setting him up for something meatier as the core villain, Baron Mordo in a future MCU offering.
Along with the cast, the movie undoubtedly benefits from all its visual effects and razmatazz with each frame looking exceptional – the CGI in Doctor Strange is the finest to be seen in a while – the detailing that makes us a part of an alternate universe that is both mystical and Inception-seque at once, has to be seen to be believed (preferably in 3D/IMAX) and even the most skeptical among the audience will be in awe of all the spectacle that unfolds in front of them.
On the flip side, while it is definitely darker, and (thankfully) doesn't suffer from a Disney hangover to make it more child friendly, Doctor Strange doesn't really offer anything path breaking in terms of storytelling. It treads familiar ground and is a staple superhero yarn where a freak accident turns a mere mortal into an unlikely hero, but it's all delivered with such imagination, such flair and such ingenuity that it's hard to fault what it set out to do all along. Entertain. And that it does – and how.
A delightful four stars for what is undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable films of the year.