DOCTOR STRANGE (USA/12A/115mins)
Directed by Scott Derrickson. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen, Benedict Wong.
THE PLOT: Dr. Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) is just about the finest neurosurgeon New York has to offer. He just might also be the most arrogant, which means that when his top-of-the-range sports car goes careering off a cliff late one night, you won’t find many gasps of anguish from the audience.
Waking up to find his life-saving, life-defining hands are now effectively useless, Strange goes slightly bonkers trying to find a cure, eventually finding himself at the feet of a mystic (Swinton) in the depths of Katmandu. And that’s when ‘The Karate Kid’ on LSD kicks off. Which is handy, because disgruntled ex-employee (Mikkelsen) of said temple is on a rampage to do some evil planetary overlord’s bidding and bring the world to its knees… THE VERDICT: It is, of course, perfect casting, Cumberbatch having pretty much cornered the market right now when it comes to the oddball intellectual look. The fact that he looks like the bastard child of Tilda Swinton and Tilda Swinton means casting David Bowie’s Taylor Durden as his master and mentor here makes perfect sense too. But what of the film itself, the latest in a long line of highly lucrative and generally rather fine Disney-Does-Marvel blockbusters?
At heart, ‘Kung Fu Panda’ as directed by Christopher Nolan, ‘Doctor Strange’ hits all its marketing marks, and can’t be faulted on the techno-wizardry (just about justifying 3D), the cad-to-spiritual-riches plot line (think Tony Stark meets ‘The Matrix’), and, yep, smart casting all the way down the line.
The flaws? Well, despite all the eye-popping visuals and the comic relief of Cumberbatch’s sardonic doc, there is the somewhat inevitable smell of over-familiarity here, as though we’ve seen this reluctant superhero tale many, many times before. And even at just under the two-hour mark, this is another Marvel epic that feels a tad too long for its own good.
But, minor squabbles, people. ‘Doctor Strange’ does everything it says on the bottle. And a little more. RATING: 4/5 Review by Paul Byrne