‘Doctor Strange’ Review!

Poster artwork for Marvel Studios upcoming 'Doctor Strange'

Poster artwork for Marvel Studios upcoming ‘Doctor Strange’

  • Directed by Scott Derrikson
  • Written by Scott Derrikson, C. Robert Cargill & John Spaihts
  • Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott Adkins, Mads Mikkelsen & Tilda Swinton

‘Marvel’s Doctor Strange’ follows the story of the talented neurosurgeon Doctor Stephen Strange who, after a tragic car accident, must put ego aside and learn the secrets of a hidden world of mysticism and alternate dimensions. Based in New York City’s Greenwich Village, Doctor Strange must act as an intermediary between the real world and what lies beyond, utilizing a vast array of metaphysical abilities and artifacts to protect the Marvel cinematic universe.

‘Marvel’s Doctor Strange’ is in cinemas now!

After eight years and thirteen films ‘Doctor Strange’ is Marvel’s shining light for reinvigorating the franchise. As the fourteenth film in a franchise it’s not easy thing to take the cinematic universe in a new direction.

Where Phase One gave us Earth based foes and the creation of the Avengers, Phase Two introduced us to alien threats. Phase three has been about new beginnings. We’ve been introduced properly to new Avengers like Ant-Man and now we have added magic to the world of Marvel.

‘Doctor Strange’ is at its most inventive when experimenting with its magic. Creating new ways of looking at the world and new ways to twist the action set this film apart from other opening entries in the various sub-franchises. It also feels more international than previous Marvel films aside from ‘Captain America: Civil War’.

I’m going to start with what works: Benedict Cumberbatch is a great Stephen Strange. At times I found him to be verging on impersonating Robert Downey Jnr in the first ‘Iron Man’ film but it never strays so far as to distract. Regardless of impersonations his performance is the stuff Marvel’s dreams are made of. There’s a brilliant mix of arrogance and humanity to make intriguing yet engaging.

Mad Mikklesen as Kaecilius was also a highlight for me. History is likely to decide he is another in a long line of forgettable comic book film villains but I would argue he is one of the more memorable. As a fan of ‘Hannibal’ perhaps having seen him at his most psychological adds weight to seeing him here. Either way his performance lifts Kaecilius off the screen much more than any of the stand-alone Marvel film villains we’ve seen.

In fact there is negligible poor casting in this film. Despite the controversy Tilda Swinton plays her part in the story well. Rachel McAdams is criminally underused as love interest Christine Palmer but hopefully her role will increase as the franchise develops.

Chiwetel Ejiofor was always my choice for Black Panther but he still does an admirable job as Mordo. Any fan with knowledge of the character will instantly find it difficult to believe in his relationship with Strange, particularly given the early spoiler leaks regarding both the films end credit scenes. Still there is a devastation which comes with watching the two characters bond only to have their relationship deteriorate as the story draws to a close.

Visually ‘Doctor Strange’ is stunning. We’ve all see the ‘Inception’ style visuals in the trailers, thankfully not all of those moments have been given away during the films promotion. I saw the film in 2D mainly because I felt these scenes would probably be nauseating in 3D. Not only do these moments look good but they also add new levels of excitement to action sequences.

Previous Marvel films have all had a relatively linear visual style with only ocassional trips in to space and to other worlds thrown in to mix things up. With ‘Doctor Strange’ all boundaries to the visual style of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are removed. Having seen this film and now knowing that he will be appearing in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ I’m quite excited to see how the creatives at Marvel take this further.

I instantly recognised that artist behind the film’s score as Michael Giacchino. There are flourishes in the music which heavily call upon his recent work on the ‘Star Trek’ franchise. Overall he is able to create a score which is head and shoulders above any of the other Marvel films. For me Marvel has always failed to deliver a strong score. ‘Doctor Strange’ is yet to rectify the problem but is a step in the right direction.

Now the bad part… on to what doesn’t work. There’s only two points that bugged me really:

The story is still a carbon copy of ‘Iron Man’, ‘Thor’, ‘Captain America: First Avenger’, ‘Ant-Man’ etc… Marvel has still to learn that origin stories can be original. There’s a formula to these opening gambits which, to be fair, has earned Marvel/Disney a shed load of cash. Future Marvel opening entries need to change the formula desperately.

Dormammu. His appearance is mo-capped by Benedict Cumberbatch and its obvious. I understand this has been rationalised in the press but this is not how Dormammu should appear. It still beats the cloud version of Galactus in ‘Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer’ but its close. Hopefully future films will bring us a proper look at the hugely popular villain.

I can’t review this film without mentioning its humour. There are some great comedic moments and then there are some that feel truly forced. When the film relaxes and stops taking itself so seriously then its humour is easily on par with ‘Ant-Men’. It strikes a great balance between comedy and drama which really fits what Marvel means to me.

Then there are those slapstick moments which fail to reach the highs of Hulk smashing Loki and instead find themselves back in the barn with Tony Stark and his child sidekick in ‘Iron Man 3’.

Its humour is by no means a fail but also not a total success.

Verdict

‘Doctor Strange’ is certainly a less marmite comic book movie than others released this year. It’s visually the most striking Marvel film in years with an engaging cast, strong cinematography and a good score. Its weaknesses are far outweighed by its strengths. Hopefully this is a sign of a more creatively diverse Marvel Universe to come.

3 stars

 

 

3 stars

Neil Vagg

Neil is the GYCO Editorial Chief. He has a BA in Film & Tv and an MA in Scriptwriting; he currently works 9-5 as an office manager and 5-9 as a reviewer/web designer. He has been subscribing to comics for around nine years but has been reading them as long as he can remember. Favourite comics: Batman; Nightwing, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and All New X-Men Favourite films: Batman (any apart from & Robin); Star Trek Generations, Underworld, Beetlejuice Favourite TV shows: Fringe; Buffy, Arrow, TBBT, Being Human UK and Star Trek TNG

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