Director Scott Derrickson
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen
Released 25th October 2016
I’m obsessed. Consumed with wanting Doctor Strange’s cloak of levitation. There, I’ve said it! For me, the swirling red cloak with a mind of its own – and a very distinct character – should be on the cast list for Marvel’s Doctor Strange, alongside the likes of Cumberbatch and Swinton. Perhaps the Academy would like to consider an award for Best Cloak In A Supporting Role?
That red velvet object of my desire is just one highlight in Marvel’s latest offering, which comes after sure-fire hits like The Avengers franchise and more unexpected successes like Ant-Man and Guardians Of The Galaxy. This time round, we have a different type of super hero, one that’s explained succinctly somewhere in the middle of the film by oriental librarian – there’s a bit more to him than that – Wong (Benedict Wong). “Heroes like The Avengers protect the world from physical dangers. We safeguard it against more mystical threats.”
“We” means Wong, Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and the other warriors alongside The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). Their latest recruit is Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a brilliant neurosurgeon who is left with severe multiple injuries after a car accident – an object lesson in not using your mobile while driving. Believing he can never work again, he ventures East on a journey to heal himself. But, under the tutelage of The Ancient One and her right hand man Mordo, he quickly absorbs new, mystic powers and uses them to stand between the real world and what lies beyond.
Those mystical powers are the main point of difference between Doctor Strange and the rest of the Marvel cinematic universe. The mix of mysticism and psychedelia is a throwback to the sixties, when the original story was written. And it all translates into some tremendous special effects, ones where those 3-D glasses are essential to make the most of them. They may temporarily put you in mind of Inception but they’ve moved up a notch and are truly spectacular. New York City is carved into chunks floating in the air but with traffic still on the move. Buildings in the City of London topple and re-build themselves domino-style, while their neo-Roman pillars revolve like giant wheels. A kaleidoscope of mind-blowing images.
It’s a film with plenty of nods in the direction of other movies and TV series, none of which are from the Marvel stable. Strange comes across as a first cousin of Gregory House, minus the walking stick, and Cumberbatch sports a similar American accent. A brilliant doctor, he’s arrogant to the point of insufferable and you can’t blame his loyal girlfriend, Christine (Rachel McAdams) for giving him the push. The music, especially at the end credits, has more than a ring of Sherlock about it. And Strange even lives at 177a Bleecker Street: true, it’s a New York address, but verbally it’s only a stone’s throw from London’s Baker Street.
A Marvel super hero movie just isn’t a Marvel super hero movie without that characteristic humour – and there’s plenty of that in Doctor Strange. Along, of course, with the mandatory Stan Lee cameo, which is probably his funniest to date. And that humour extends into the much-discussed mid-credits scene, which points to Strange’s future. I’m saying no more than that, but make sure you stay for it because it’s another great giggle.
You couldn’t want for more, especially at half term. Full throttle action, eye popping special effects, a great cast, laughs and the promise of more to come. Very simply, Doctor Strange is pure magic. And if he ever gets bored of that cloak, I’ll be more than happy to take it off his hands. And his shoulders.
Doctor Strange is released in cinemas on Tuesday, 25 October and reviewed on Talking Pictures on Thursday, 27 October.