Movie: Doctor Strange
Director: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton.
After eight years and 13 successful films, the newest entry into the Marvel universe hit theatres this weekend. One might think that Marvel’s enormous success would allow their new, magical origin story to break the standard superhero movie mold. However, Doctor Strange proves this is not the case.
The very first Marvel Studios film Iron Man starred an egocentric genius who experiences a life-changing event, which forces him to pursue the greater good using his intellect and charisma. Almost a decade later, Doctor Strange sticks to the same story that plays it safe and still rakes in cash at the box office.
Benedict Cumberbatch assumes the role of Stephen Strange, the wealthy male lead who is more surface than substance. He is a renowned surgeon and after a reckless car accident causes him to lose the use of his hands, he becomes tormented by his inability to continue his life's work. He searches the world for treatment, and through a highly improbable series of coincidences, he is able to locate a secret society of mystics led by the mysterious Ancient One (Swinton).
Here he begins his training in the mystic arts, and due mostly to the film’s need to make him a formidable hero by the time the credits roll, he is somehow promoted to a master in what feels like an absurdly short period of time. While every superhero movie requires suspension of disbelief, the plot of Doctor Strange loses its grip at times because of unnecessarily gaping plot holes.
Despite this, the formidable cast of the film turns in strong performances that elevate the script. Cumberbatch and McAdams make a convincing pair and their romance, while predictable, is the much needed human element of the story. The most memorable performance however, is done by Ejiofor as Mordo, the tortured warrior who acts as the conscience of the film. His struggle is at times more interesting than that of the lead, which makes his prospects for the sequel promising.
What Doctor Strange lacks in story it makes up for in visuals, which are unlike any Marvel has ever produced. In reality-altering battles, buildings twist and break apart and gravity shifts at the sorcerers’ will. Cityscapes become unrecognizable as they curve and become reflective. At times the film feels like a Rubik's Cube, which seems impossible to pin down and return to its natural order. In this way it is reminiscent of the 2010 film Inception which broke barriers of visual capabilities in film. As impressive as it was, these techniques are dialled up a notch in Doctor Strange, making the technical aspects of the film a true achievement.
Doctor Strange is worth seeing, if only for the transcendent visual experience. It is also one of the few films worth seeing in 3D. But viewers looking for something truly fresh unfortunately won’t find it in Marvel’s latest blockbuster.