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DOCTOR STRANGE – Strange Days Indeed

doctor-strange

Directed by Scott Derrickson
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor

The Marvel Cinematic Universe expands further, this time bringing us into the realm of the mystical and magical with Doctor Strange.

Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a brilliant neurosurgeon injured in a tragic accident. Searching for a cure that modern medicine can’t provide for him, he steps into the realm of eastern mysticism. What he discovers is a reality beyond his traditional understanding, one which sees sorcerous forces battling threats from other dimensions. A battle that he soon finds himself entangled in, as his master (Tilda Swinton) is hunted by an ex-pupil (Mads Mikkelsen) that has entered into a Faustian pack with a creature from beyond.

Doctor Strange is Marvel’s acid inspired ride through elderitch psychedelia. It opens up the magical realms of the comics laying the groundwork for more mystical mayhem in the future. In this Strange is Sorcerer Supreme, blowing the doors off perception in a way that would warm the cockles of Aldous Huxley’s heart. Here the special effects are eye-popping as they peel away at the levels of reality (with inspiration drawn from 2001 and Inception), and explore the magical realms that Doctor Strange now treads. It is big bold world building, bringing us an under explored aspect of the Marvel Universe, and shedding some mystical light on it.

But all magic extracts a price. For this film, the heavy world building comes at the cost of the story. Doctor Strange is a fairly run of the mill origin tale that we have seen in so many superhero films before it. It’s as if with the all the wall-meltingly trippy stuff that they are exploring, Scott Derikson, chose the safest way to tell the story so as to anchor and reassure the audience. As such it is predictable and lacking in comparison to the wonders surrounding it.

Still, the strong ensemble works well with what it is given. Even with his odd American accent Cumberbatch is perfect casting for the good doctor, carrying both swagger and intellectual confidence. What is a surprise, it that he is actually very funny, making the most of a number of comedic notes scattered throughout the script. Mikkelsen does his best with an undercooked villain (a common refrain for the MCU), and deserves credit for still being able to convey menace beneath purple glitter eye shadow. Only Rachel McAdams feels truly wasted, saddled with a character that is nothing but support for Strange.

Certainly a magical mystery tour, Doctor Strange is a movie spectacle that opens up whole new realms of possibilities of the MCU. Unfortunately it sacrifices plot to do this, resulting an enjoyable if somewhat hollow experience. Hence Strange feels only like a mid tier Marvel film, despite all the positives it carries with it. Still, all in all, its a heck of a magic trick.

DAVID O’CONNELL

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