While I’m a devoted follower of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I am by no stretch familiar with Doctor Strange. In fact, prior to the announcement of his inclusion in the MCU, I barely knew he existed at all. But then again, that’s basically the story of my (and probably many others’) experience with Marvel since 2008: going from practically zero awareness of a comic book hero to total fan overnight.
Doctor Strange is certainly no different.
This origin story introduces us to the exceptionally talented and ruthlessly arrogant neurosurgeon, Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), whose life changes when a devastating car crash cripples his hands. When Western medicine fails him, his search for healing leads him to the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) who reveals a secret world of sorcery and the constant battle against those who subscribe to the dark arts. Strange is faced with the choice of his old life of success and fortune or leaving it all to defend the planet against inter-dimensional threats.
Cumberbatch creates a memorable, charismatic character that’s reminiscent of the ever-popular Tony Stark played by Robert Downey Jr. while keeping his own unique brand of wit, charm and ego. His exchanges with the enclave librarian, Wong (Benedict Wong) are spliced beautifully between the intense mystical training and philosophical pondering. Chiwetel Ejiofor gives a brilliant performance as Strange’s headstrong mentor, Mordo while Swinton brings a fresh take and new personality to the Ancient One, typically portrayed as an old, Nepalese man.
I particularly felt they really got the villain right with Mads Mikkelsen who plays Kaecilius, a former student of the Ancient One gone bad. There’s more depth to his character than the usual mindless hunger for destruction; he was the product of conflicting ideologies when he questioned the teachings of his former master. He certainly wasn’t boring to watch.
I need to take a moment to try and emphasise how mind-bogglingly incredible the visual effects are in this film. Watching a speck-like Strange fall through vast dimensions or a kaleidoscopical Manhattan that would make Christopher Nolan jealous is an experience in itself. I personally recommend seeing this movie in 3D.
As the newest addition to the MCU, Doctor Strange is most definitely welcome and intensely fun to watch. The trademark mid-credit and end-credit scenes leave plenty to speculate on regarding the wider plot as we inevitably lead to the Infinity War.
Image: Walt Disney Pictures