After stealing the Summer earlier this year with Captain America: Civil War, Marvel are back with a somewhat more experimental project as another classic character's origin story is crossed off the list. Benedict Cumberbatch takes on the role of Doctor Strange, the Master of the Mystic Arts.
This was always going to be a challenge for Marvel as adding what is essentially a wizard to a vast superhero universe could go either way. Fans might call it jumping the shark, liken it to Harry Potter and dismiss it entirely. But for comic-book readers, Doctor Strange is a pretty important character who has always been closely linked to most of the heroes we've come to know and love in the movies so introducing him to the Avengers' universe was a no-brainer and an exciting prospect. Dr. Stephen Strange is portrayed as a charming, very talented and extremely intelligent neurosurgeon whose vanity and arrogance almost kills him. After a devastating car crash, Strange's hands are crushed and, even after a lot of surgery, he finds they still shake making him unable to continue his career. Having sunk all his money into attempting to fix his hands, he bets on one last trip to Nepal where he learned of a place with a potential cure. There, he meets a mysterious monk known only as The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) who teaches him to open his mind to another reality.
A film like Doctor Strange would need to not only make the character's wizard-style attire look not too silly in the real world, but tell a believable story in that superhero-filled universe and do something unique visually as well. The good news is the film mostly achieves that. Indeed, when things take a trippy turn and Doctor Strange starts flying through mirror universes and fighting on the side of blinking buildings, the movie finally unveils its Joker card: the kaleidoscopic visuals. Inception is turned up to 11 as mystical masters, good and bad, manipulate reality as they see fit making for pretty unique and compelling action sequences. Benedict Cumberbatch proves to be the perfect choice to play Strange and the supporting cast, which includes Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams and Mads Mikkelsen, is very good even if the latter is never given the opportunity to really develop his character or be truly threatening.
This is probably the film's main drawback: it feels a little rushed at times.
This is often the case with origin stories and, usually, this is because the filmmakers try to cram too much stuff in. With Doctor Strange, however, you're never bored and you never feel like it's too packed. The plot just moves faster than it probably should at times leaving you to scratch your head and wonder if parts of it even make sense. One character turns evil way too quickly, for example. Strange becomes a pro at using magic almost overnight and the rules of it all don't always add up. Luckily, there's plenty in this movie to enjoy from the performances to the visuals and the fact it's overall a heck of a lot of fun. It's a feast for the eyes that delivers some rather out-there ideas like portals, sentient capes and ghost fights but there's a human story at its heart as you see a man lose everything then, against all odds, pull himself together and build himself a new life. The film's climax lacks the punch of the previous action sequences but, all in all, it works.
While uneven at times, Doctor Strange is yet another success for Marvel: full of charm and energy, this is one spectacle you'll want to attend, especially if you're a comic-book fan. There are maybe 5 corny jokes too many and it all moves a bit too fast but there's no doubt that Doctor Strange will fit in nicely and offer a lot to the MCU.
Strange but cool.