I’ll preface this review with a big ‘FINALLY’ and a long, satisfied exhale. 2016 hasn’t been a stellar year for movie making, with a number of disappointing blockbusters and more than a few trite and banal adaptations and sequels. Enter the ubiquitous Marvel, who seemingly can do no wrong.
Their formula for the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) is a recipe that consistently pays off, nailing tone, rhythm, story and character, in a genre that is definitely tired; Dr. Strange joins the ensemble and reinvigorates us all with a touch of magic.
When Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) an overconfident, brash and selfish – albeit brilliant – neurosurgeon is ironically in a serious car accident that permanently damages the nerves in both his hands, he goes literally to the ends of the Earth to find a cure. Pure science and medicine takes him as far as he can go, until he hears of a miracle, which was performed out of a mystical dojo in Nepal.
Upon entry he meets ‘The Ancient One’ played by a bald and alien looking Tilda Swinton and her underlings Wong and Mordo (Benedict Wong, Chiwetel Ejiofor). At first there are the obvious apprehensions with a strong cult vibe eminent and Strange’s curt attitude leaving him a closed door, both figuratively and literally, as he is quickly thrown out for his manner.
This happens only moments after The Ancient One gives him just a glimpse of the potential he possesses. A taste of a world with unlimited universes, possibilities, where one can escape their physical form into shadow, teleport through space and time and control the elements; and it leaves Strange agog at what he saw, and soon he is eventually again given the chance to join, train and master the meta-physical world, and help them protect our reality from dangers far beyond our own comprehension.
Cumberbatch is the perfect strange, akin to Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man in terms of casting. All the characters are tightly written and grounded, with Rachel McAdams playing probably the best Avengers hero partner and Mads Mikkelsen the coolest and menacing villain in several Marvel films of recent memory.
Perhaps one of the true stars of the movie is the visuals; mind-boggling, epic, extravagant and all the synonyms of these words. The mystical sequences are spellbinding, the camera movement and colours and technique is a fiesta of light and SFX and a credit to the production for the slick design and attention to detail, easily worthy of the Best Visual Effects Oscar at next years Academy Awards for sure.
File Dr. Strange as again insurmountable evidence of Marvel’s ability to create standalone superhero movies that work on their own, but still build and feel like part of a greater universe over DC’s pithy ineptitude. Fan of these kinds of movies or not, the difference between the two is polarizing, and once again we can be safe in the assumption if you’re watching a film with a Stan Lee cameo, its going to be at the very least entertaining, which is a quality bereft of most of the line-up of cinema in 2016.