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

  • filmbuff2011

    You have to hand it to Marvel Studios. Never ones to rest on their laurels (of which they have many), they’re taking financial risks and bringing their lesser-known properties to the big screen. It would be so easy and safe to do Iron Man 4, but instead they’ve opted for their most mind-bending and experimental film yet in Doctor Strange.

    Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a brilliant Manhattan neurosurgeon who still has a thing for former lover and work colleague Christine (Rachel McAdams). A car accident changes things immeasurably, badly injuring his body and in particular his hands – the tools of his trade. The healing process is slow and painful, but he hears of a potential way to accelerate his recovery. He spends his last dollar travelling to Nepal, to seek out a mystical place where a spiritual reboot can lead to a full physical recovery in time. There he meets Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who introduces him to The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). She has powers over inter-dimensional worlds and time itself. Initially skeptical of his approach and over-inflated ego, The Ancient One teaches him to harness the powers of the mystics. As he develops his powers, this brings him into conflict with Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen). A former pupil of The Ancient One, he has now turned to the dark arts as a way of controlling the world and bringing an inter-dimensional being to Earth…

    Adapted from the Steve Ditko comic book that first appeared in 1963 by director Scott Derrickson and co-writers Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill, Doctor Strange certainly lives up to its name. This is a film full of imagination, mystery and the strangeness of inter-dimensional worlds. Our hero finds himself caught in mind-bending scenarios as worlds bend and shape themselves into distorted versions of reality, like the broken shards of a mirror. Derrickson, best known for making intelligent horror films like Sinister, goes one up on Christopher Nolan’s inverted cityscapes of Inception. Here, he quite literally turns cityscapes into constantly revolving environments to dizzying effect. It’s a visually impressive film with the kind of jaw-dropping visuals that haven’t been seen before on a cinema screen. Not bad for a Hollywood film in which we thought all originality had dried up or been relegated to the independent sector.

    Doctor Strange is not your typical superhero. Arrogant and too much in love with himself to care much about others or the fate of the world, his character arc is teased out in a wonderful way that wins the audience over. It helps to have Cumberbatch’s dry sense of humour and deadpan delivery to bring the character into three dimensions – or should that be multiple dimensions? Derrickson also surrounds him with an excellent supporting cast of character actors – getting Swinton onboard brings an extra layer of class.

    While some Marvel films can suffer from action overload, this film feels well-balanced in terms of character development and action-packed sequences that are inventive and unpredictable. The pacing is spot-on too, with the film coming in at just under 2 hours. There’s also a runaway strain of humour which can come out of nowhere at times – check out that cape with a mind of its own. As the second post-credits teaser wraps up we’re promised, Bond-style, that Doctor Strange Will Return. This reviewer has no doubt of that. Doctor Strange is fabulous and freaky – in the right kind of way. ****

  • emerb

    “Dr. Strange” is the 14th Marvel adaptation to arrive on our big screen and it is undoubtedly a visually dazzling and impressive blockbuster. Directed by Scott Derrickson, it introduces the newest Marvel superhero – a flawed but exceptional man who gains new powers and becomes a “better” person. Arguably it features the most talented Marvel cast to date with Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular superhero, Tilda Swinton as a powerful mystic and also starring Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Mads Mikkelsen.

    Benedict Cumberbatch is Dr. Stephen Strange, a brilliant but arrogant and egotistical New York neurosurgeon. When he drives his sports car off a twisty road he sustains such severe nerve damage in his hands that he can no longer use his hands and certainly not for delicate operations. As he has alienated everyone in the ER, the only person left who cares for him is his nurse ex-girlfriend Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) who is prepared to stand by him. When traditional treatment can’t help him, Strange seeks advice from a man named Pangborn (Benjamin Bratt), who broke his back, but somehow learned to heal himself. Though skeptical at first, he is desperate for a remedy so that he can regain his livelihood so he takes the man’s advice and travels to Nepal
    in search of a cure. There he meets a secret group of world-protecting sorcerers including the Jedi-like Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a librarian (Wong Benedict Wong) and their master, the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). The Ancient One is a bald, powerful, immortal Celtic woman who offers to revive his hands while simultaneously teaching him about the mystic arts and sorcery. Despite his impatience and hot headedness, Strange learns to submit to his superpowers and quickly acquires magical skills so that he is soon capable of manipulating space and time. The Ancient One recognizes his great potential as a champion for the forces of good and so begins the fight to save the world from the hands of former student Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) who has stolen pages from a forbidden sacred book and intends to take over the planet with dark forces (or something!).
    Derrickson’s greatest asset in this movie is his outstanding cast. The performances are consistently engaging and Cumberbatch, in particular, is a perfect fit. His clever wit, dry sense of humour, arrogance, impatience and sense of superiority give him both the requisite charm and quirkiness. Visually too he works well, cutting a striking figure in his flowing red cape and trim goatee. Cumberbatch perfectly captures the flawed hero who fights to regain the use of his hands and is forced to question everything he has learned. You fully believe
    in his transformation from pompous egotistic prat to fearless superhero. There has been much written about the casting of the white-skinned Swinton in a role originally meant for an old Asian man but what of it? As the Ancient One, she’s great, adds emotional depth and dominates every scene which she appears in, no mean feat given her co-stars. McAdams does well with her part given that she isn’t an integral part of the story line. Ejiofor gives Mordo an interesting arc and also some gravitas for future adventures.
    “Dr Strange” is original, fresh and brilliantly bizarre and Marvel diehards will not be disappointed. In my opinion, it’s the most exciting addition to the ever-expanding Marvel universe since “The Avengers.” Not only does it deal with mind-bending concepts such as parallel dimensions, time travel and mysticism but it’s also humorous and light hearted and never takes itself too seriously which nicely contrasts with the world-threatening aspect of the adventure. The
    innovative visual effects are what stood out for me. Characters can pass through time zones, skyscrapers bend over, whole sections of New York fold down, buildings collide, multiply and assume new configurations in a similar manner to that of “Inception”, but better. The plot is enlivened by some of the most inspired and arresting set pieces to ever grace the big screen, culminating with a truly impressive finale, quite unlike one I’ve ever seen in a movie before. To benefit fully, I think it just has to be seen in 3D and I guarantee that the outstanding visuals will leave your mind boggled. “Dr. Strange” is a smartly cast, fresh, engaging and eye popping entry to the Marvel franchise. It’s different enough to establish a solid niche alongside the other superhero films and together with its formidable track record and Oscar worthy cast, Marvel is sure to lure in significant audiences. Be sure to stay for the two teaser credits at the end which
    give a glimpse of what’s to come. The first features one of the key figures from “The Avengers” and the second suggests one of the main characters has ulterior motives. Exciting times ahead for Marvel fans….

  • Mandy O’Rourke

    This film is amazing the graphics and visual effects where unbelievably good. I did not know what to expect but was very please and have been recommending this film to everyone.
    I look forward to future Marvel film if they are done more in line of this film.