Today: June 21, 2024

Doctor Strange

The Marvel machine rumbles on. And on. And on. It’s become such a mainstay in multiplexes these days, such a box office behemoth that they’ve even changed their flipping comic book studio intro. They’ve produced so much that Doctor Strange’s Marvel stamp of approval flicks through clips from all their previous films.

New ident aside the real question remains, does Doctor Strange move away from the tried, tested and tired formula of the rest of their output? In short, only very slightly.

Because the origin of a superhero is one we’ve seen before. In fact in the case of Doctor Strange you can almost substitute him for Iron Man or Captain America without much really changing. So you have your cocky lead (Benedict Cumberbatch) who experiences a life-defining moment which sends him rock bottom. He then goes on a soul-searching expedition where he meets The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who open his eyes to another world of magic and dimension shifting nightmares.

Cue the big bad, in the evil-eyed shape of Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), who wants to let Earth fall into the clutches of an evil planet chewing entity known as Dormammu. Thankfully Strange has just about got to grasp with his abilities to put up a proper fight.

Where credit has to be given to Marvel is their continued determination to hire out of left field directors to helm their projects. Scott Derrickson, best known for his horror films such as Sinister and The Exorcism Of Emily Rose, brings a visual flair that is the most unique thing about Strange. It’s a kaleidoscopic, swirling acid trip that takes aspects of Christopher Nolan’s Inception and makes them all its own. The climatic battle in particular is a wonderfully engaging time-shifting nightmare that allows for Groundhog Day levels of humour.

The issue is the narrative itself. For such a vibrant, three-dimensional shifting world Doctor Strange feels depressingly flat. Strange’s fall from arrogant surgeon to all conquering magician is handled in such a way that’s hard to know where exactly he is in his training, one minute he seems unable to achieve the most basic of magic, the next he’s fending off three incredibly powerful rivals. Furthermore, Strange’s refusal to believe in magic to begin with is undermined horribly by love interest Rachel McAdams’ easy acceptance of it. If seeing is believing then it’s hard to fathom why Strange, being a genius and all, struggles to get it.

The performances are what you’d expect from a cast of this calibre. Swinton is a highlight with a sense of nonchalance about her immeasurable powers. Ejiofor feels wasted given the huge talent we all know he has, much of his role seems little more than to set him as an important character in future Strange movies. McAdams manages to be a comedy highlight, jumping with perfect shock at various moments to bring a sense of fun that is all too often lacking in the film. Cumberbatch meanwhile is doing his usual thing of playing a tricky smart guy. Whether he’s Alan Turing or Sherlock he does this high IQ sarcasm in his sleep. Suffice to say no one feels like they’re flexing any real acting chops here.

When the highlight of a movie is the mid-credit sting you know there are problems. Doctor Strange feels like a missed opportunity and might be evidence that the Marvel Magic is beginning to wain.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email:

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