Doctor Strange – Film Review by Fran Winston
Directed by: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott Adkins, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton
In cinemas October 25th
Well lookee at that. Just in time for Halloween costume inspiration comes the latest offering from the juggernaut that is Marvel Studios. 43 years after he first graced the pages of Strange Tales, Dr Strange gets his own movie. Originally introduced into the Marvelverse in order to portray a “different” type of hero, Strange certainly fits that criteria and is far more cerebral and less physical than your usual person of the super variety.
This big screen outing sees Cumberbatch taking on the eponymous role. Dr Steven Strange is a renowned neurosurgeon until an accident leaves his hands too badly damagd to work. Refusing to believe that he will never again be able to operate, he learns of a mystical place called Kamar-Taj that seemingly helped a paralysed man to walk. Upon finding it he meets the Ancient One (Swinton) who helps him unlock parts of his mind he never knew existed. As with all Marvel tales though, with this great power comes great responsibility and when a deadly evil threatens the world, Strange must decide whether to ignore the threat and return to his old life or to use his new gifts for the good of mankind.
Since this is an origins story a lot of time is spent establishing the character so other than his accident don’t expect any action for at least an hour. Even then – given the nature of his powers – it is far more genteel than the many smash ‘em up spectaculars that Marvel have released. Strange is a more sophisticated hero and the action scenes reflect that (although, yes, a city does get trashed – that’s a given!)
Cumberbatch is fantastic as Strange. You can’t actually imagine anyone else in the part. He is ably supported by a great cast and Mads Mikkelsen even manages to make the bad guy Kaecilius appear fully rounded.
As you would expect from a Marvel movie, this looks great and it also has an injection of humour. The script may sometimes veer on the intellectual side but it never becomes difficult to follow.
Slick and stylish this lives up to the hype but like so many of these films, I have a slight bug bear with the token female – in this case the job falls to McAdams. (Swinton’s character is almost gender neutral so doesn’t really count). Marvel has recently started trying to make their stories more diverse but there is not a huge amount of evidence of that here. Also some fans will be disappointed that they have veered away from some of the comic’s mythology although their interpretation of the tale does really work.
You know what to expect here and it delivers in spades. Its bloody good fun, a thrill ride (after the first hour) with a hero you care about and a suitably deranged baddie to boo and hiss at. It sticks to the winning Marvel formula because if it ain’t broke…
And as always with these films, do sit through the credits for a hilarious clip featuring another well known Marvel icon.