Dr Strange

UK Release Date October 28 2016
Director Scott Derrickson
Starring TILDA, Cumberbatch, Chiwetel
Runtime 1hr 55mins
Certificate 12A
Reviewer Jo
Reviewed 10th November 2016

In general I would class myself as someone who is resolutely not a fan of superhero movies. I can’t remember the last time I sat through one that didn’t make me either angry or sleepy. Or both. Slangry, like hangry but less active. I suspect the thing that singularly irritates me the most about most of these current super hero movies – all that money, all that acting talent and still the movies are doltish, dim witted and dull (yes I am looking at you Batman Vs. Superman). In addition to this I must also admit that I don’t really like Benedict Cumberbatch that much as an actor either (jolly nice chap just not my cup of thespian tea). So all of this makes me the most perfect candidate to watch Dr Strange on a rainy, gloomy Thursday; two days after the news hit that the modern world’s very own idiotic super villain pulled off the greatest trick of all and became President of the United States. In short I needed cheering up and, in short, Dr Strange achieved that. Writer/director Scott Kerrigan’s iteration of that most LSD inspired of Marvel’s stable is a trippy, imaginative, funny and intelligent origins story. It’s still a silly superhero movie but at least it’s got a, somewhat thin, but legible plot and it’s inhabited by some first class (mostly British) actors. For two whole hours I didn’t think about the orange buffoon and for that, Scott Derrickson, I thank you. 

Eminent neurosurgeon Stephen Strange is a man with a God complex. Admittedly his hands can do extraordinary things – we witness this early on when he pulls a bullet out of a man’s head with no computerised help. A dazzling mind but meretricious with it – Strange is the Tony Stark of surgery, if you will, a man whose ultimate goal is Strange himself. Building his life on a career which could be deemed selfless but is also one that comes with adulation and materialistic wealth. One can guess that Strange is fond of the latter as we pan around the glass walls of his Manhattan loft or watch as his flash car (Maserati? Don’t know, don’t care) comes zooming out of his underground garage. It is this car that is the downfall of Strange - the surgeon has an accident whilst driving it that renders his hands useless, tendons severed and metal pins in every part. To Strange, his life is over. Having exhausted every option Western medicine has to offer Strange finds a patient who had his very own miracle and goes on the path to find The Ancient One and undertake a new journey. 

Much of the issues I usually have with superhero movies are that all of the money spent on effects still means it just generally ends up with buildings being demolished and the world being blown up. It becomes monotonous. Dull. That categorically cannot be said for the world or worlds we see in Dr Strange. Standing squarely on the shoulders of Inception it most definitely is (Derrickson has openly said he was influenced by Nolan’s film) but it takes it so much further whilst managing to somehow keep the film from flying up it’s own psychedelic backside. No mean feat. Dr Strange is full of imagination and sparkle and is the only time I think I will ever say that I wish I had seen a movie in 3D. Oscar winner Alexandra Byrne has created some costumes that have a real life of their own and the visual effects deserve  accolades for both imagination and execution, there is some eye popping, awe inducing brain candy on the screen in this movie.  

Much of this comes from the very real and grounding performances of Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo. These are two phenomenal actors as we all know and they lend the film a real gravitas when it has the potential for it to be the most laughable. Tilda radiates ethereal energy in the role, which was an elderly Chinese man in the original comics. I for one think it is inspired casting and the film would be far lesser without her. Chiwetel shows us another, more action hero side but couples this with what we usually associate with him, intelligence and a sensitive performance. There is great support also in the shape of Benedict Wong who almost steals the penultimate scene in the film. Mads Mikelson is our villain Kaecilius, a former pupil of the Ancient One who has now gone rogue. Mikelson is excellent in this role if a little underused. Rachel McAdams is also excellent although I must admit I not entirely sure what the point of her character was. At least she was a doctor. So to Benedict. Marvel pushed the release of the film to wait for Cumberbatch after Derrickson insisted no-one else could play the role as well as him. Well, I suspect he is probably right. As with that other role Benedict plays sometimes, Sherlock,  Strange is an extremely intelligent man with a hint of arrogance but is ultimately charming and our Cumberbatch is that to a tee. He imbues Strange with a deep emotional layers but is also rather adept at the witty one liners – don’t get me wrong he’s no Gene Wilder but I did chuckle at his delivery. A very special supporting actor nod to The Cloak who almost flies away with all of the funniest moments in the film. Extremely well executed and with a wonderful dollop of humour.

In Short:

Scott Derrickson made his own expensive audition reel in his bid to direct Dr Strange as he was such a fan of the comics and one can see that on the screen. This is an adaptation that is thoughtful considered and passionate – and not afraid to laugh at itself. Coupled with a dream cast it becomes one of the best superhero outings I’ve ever seen. Of course at the end there is the unavoidable dread-inducing teaser for the inevitable follow up but in this case I must admit I am rather looking forward to seeing more of Dr Stephen Strange. 

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