Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams
Genre: Action/ Fantasy
Top neurosurgeon Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) has it all, but after a violent car accident his hands are severely damaged, ruining his career and changing his life forever. With conventional medicine and surgery failing to improve his hands, he turns to a mysterious and secretive group of people who he has heard can help him with the use of the mystic arts. Strange quickly learns all their mysterious techniques, but soon also learns that they are involved in a long-standing battle to protect the earth from unseen dark forces, and Strange is soon forced to use his newly acquired skills and powers to save mankind.
So, the cinematic juggernaut that is Marvel brings us its latest hero, but of course Marvel now does face the challenge that any new character it introduces is not a household name and so they do have to work that little bit harder to achieve a good box office return.
Well of course putting together a cast of big names is a good start, but Doctor Strange doesn’t have any superstars on its cast list, especially its main star. Benedict Cumberbatch’s stock has of course risen astronomically in the last decade, but his casting as a Marvel ‘superhero’ still may surprise some as it doesn’t particularly suit the kind of character he usually plays.
Well, just like with the decision of casting Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, it is the casting of Cumberbatch that is the key to why Doctor Strange works and is a thoroughly enjoyable blockbuster romp. Cumberbatch, complete with convincing American accent, is superb as the film’s titular character portraying both Stephen Strange’s arrogance and genius with aplomb, while also proving to be a charismatic screen presence with exceptional comic timing.
Cumberbatch has played some memorable characters already, but Doctor Strange is very much his film and his performance elevates the film from solid entertainment to good (but flawed and forgettable) fun. Since Guardians of the Galaxy it does see that Marvel has appreciated the necessity for its films not to take themselves too seriously, and the script does demonstrate enough self-awareness and visual gags to produce to some very funny moments, as well of course achieving the balance of humour, action and seriousness that is essential for all superhero blockbusters to work.
Story-wise Doctor Strange is lacking the usual substance that is the problem with so many Marvel films; a forgettable antagonist (despite being very well played by Mads Mikkelsen), a very rushed plot, certain character being purely at the mercy of the narrative’s sheer convenience (poor Rachel McAdams) and a slightly anticlimactic finale. However, it has enough swagger, humour, great performances and also some visually stunning action set pieces put together by director Scott Derrickson (though they are like Inception at times they are very new to the Marvel franchise) to emerge as one of the year’s most enjoyable and entertaining blockbusters. There is often very little explanation for what is going on and how, but the self-aware humour means that this and the other narrative flaws are just about forgivable.
There is certainly no denying that Doctor Strange did pose a slight risk for the Marvel franchise in that its character and premise is very different from what many films of the franchise have produced so far, but this proves to be a good thing as there is a certain freshness to it. in the end Doctor Strange has the right balance of humour, nonsense and stunning action set pieces to be both a welcome addition to the uber-franchise and an enjoyable piece of entertainment in both its own right and a welcome addition to the ever-expanding list of characters.
Though certainly flawed and slightly forgettable, there is no denying that thanks to the superb performance from its leading man and enough self-awareness, humour and visually stunning set pieces, Doctor Strange is a very entertaining and often hilarious watch, and worthy addition to the ever-expanding Marvel franchise.