Move over Gandalf – thy beard was pretty weird. Step away Dumbledore – oh wait, you died. Percy Jackson, you ain’t seen shit. Jon Snow? You slobbering fool. Doctor Strange is here to take your fool asses to school!
Alright, let’s be fair. We all know that Jon Snow doesn’t belong in this list but he needs to crawl back into the snow if he mopes around anymore. I’m sick of Jon Snow’s bearded and worried mug across my TV Screen. This has nothing to do with the below review. But I just felt like saying it somewhere and now it shall live on on the internet.
Magic should be fun, psychedelic and that’s precisely what Marvel’s latest cinematic outing packs in a plenty. Doctor Strange is a joyride all the way to the end though one gets the feeling that things got wrapped up before we could fully get invested in the characters on screen. This isn’t about the Avengers. This is the Abracadabra association of saving the damn planet again.
Benedict Cumberbatch’s real superpower in the MCU addition is probably his nasal American accent that waters down his otherwise sharp and authoritative British tone. His performance is hilarious in some scenes and in others, you miss the intensity he generally brings to the screen as he’s forced to fit into the Marvel cake mould. Cumberbatch’s American accent will never ever be as perfect as Hugh Laurie’s as Dr. House (another arrogant and brilliant American doctor played by a famous British actor).
It doesn’t take Sherlock to figure out that this is yet another origin story from the House of Marvel. Stan Lee’s probably got a pile of these books on his easy chair as butt warmers. An infinite multiverse? Endless dimensions? Mystical arts? Dormamu? What are these things? Perhaps it was a better idea to take your girlfriend for Bridget Jones’ Baby? Let’s not get too hasty. Without going into the details of the plot, here’s the story.
Super successful and arrogant – Doctor Stephen Strange, a celebrated (New York based) surgeon meets with a car accident. How do you ask? Well, it was a fateful texting and driving incident (that’s right kids – now you know). Stow away your damn phone and make sure your new air pods are handcuffed to your neck. No form of magic exists in this world to try and help retrieve those for you once you lose them.
Post-trauma, despite spending all his wealth in trying to get himself whole again by fixing up his damaged hands ( a surgeon’s greatest tool) , Doctor Strange finds himself in the hills of Nepal looking for answers that conventional science couldn’t provide him with. Strange enrolls himself in the Hogwarts School of Tilda Swinton in a mysterious place in Kathmandu called ‘Wait-I-Forgot-What-It-Was-Called’. He is among other beings who find a way to shape reality by channeling energy.
Also, Mads Mikkelsen’s got an over-arching plan to mess things up with his dark magic and Voldemort like designs on the planet.
Shepherded by a bald and mysterious being called the Ancient One (Swinton), Doctor Strange takes a deep and heady dive into the mystical arts and puts himself through the motions. There’s also a mandatory dialogue about there being a strength to him.
Things about Strange get ‘Strange’ pretty quick from this point onwards. Yup. The story gets wound up in all its tricks and gimmickry before you really get to hang out with Strange and truly understand who is he and where he came from. Perhaps it was silly of me to expect a Batman Begins style or Chamber of Shaolinesque training montage to show the disciple gradually transform into the master he was destined to become. It all happened too fast. Too fast.
Albeit formulaic and pushy in its approach, there’s a good bit of fun to be had at Benedict Cumberbatch’s expense. It’s fun to see him quip around and wave his hands around like he just does not care. Also, what really stood out in this movie for me was the VFX which to me are among some of the most trippy and accomplished that I have ever witnessed in a film (Oscar bells go ding ding ding?). Seriously now, you have to see this movie in the IMAX 3D format. The visuals merit the extra buck for a truly immersive experience.
Isn’t it strange that after a dozen or so films in the mega-connected Marvel Cinematic Universe, here comes a film that feels ‘strangely’ disconnected from the rest of the evil and mayhem that’s stacking up. But this isn’t a problem as much as it’s an opportunity. A fat juicy rump steak of a chance for some pretty juicy and perfectly seared storytelling to come forth and work their ‘magic’
You got the Guardians of the Galaxy going all kawook shmawook in Space. Tony Stark and Steve Rogers were last seen throwing the proverbial stick at each other. Street Level Vigilantes : The Punisher and Daredevil are at large with Jessica Jones drinking herself to a slow death while Luke Cage is having his ass hauled back to prison. So much to fathom. So much to conjure. You gotta love the iron grip that Marvel has on its connected properties. This is big bucks for them as DC tries to tickle its own funny bone in sloppy ways. The disappointments of Suicide Squad and Batman V Superman make Doctor Strange feel like a Kubrick film in comparison!
Watch it if you’re a fan of Cumberbatch, the MCU, films about Magic and if you want to see some of the most amazing VFX work in a long long time. Be patient with the plot and please for the love of Christ, do not miss BOTH the end credit scenes after the movie. It’ll be worth your time.