Kevin Feige’s latest money-magnet plays out via kaleidoscope where you’ll be greeted with the opportunity of seeing House M.D discover The Matrix. Yep, Marvel Studios got ambitious here.. or do they?
Fortunately not an expose on a self-made physician that lurks about netball courts, “Doctor Strange” is the feature take on the long-running Marvel comic series (the character first appeared in Strange Tales #110 in July 1963) by Steve Ditko. You mightn’t have heard of him, but your comic-reading nephew, cousin or kid would most definitely be able to spot his goatee and flapping cape in a line-up.
While Iron Man, Hulk and Captain America have all been blessed with significant physical powers, Strange’s powers lie primarily in the mystical arts. He’s more mumbo jumbo than biff-bam.
Yet, while Dr. Stephen Strange is markedly different to most of the other characters in the Marvel stable, his first foray in film feels Strangely (geddit?) familiar.
Story has the arrogant, smarmy neurosurgeon (Benedict Cumberbatch) caught up in a car wreck that destroys his beloved hands and kills his professional career. Searching the globe for a fix, he encounters a Sorcerer Supreme (Tilda Swinton) who soon blesses Strange with magical, mythical and martial powers. And timely too, now he’ll be able to assist her – and her companions; namely Mordo, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor – in taking down former student gone bad, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen).
Rachel McAdams plays Strange’s on-off lover and co-worker, Christine Palmer. She’s in there to help show the audience Strange isn’t a completely obsessed tool.
Strangely (sorry, couldn’t help myself) since the character is a major lead attraction of the comic book shelves, “Doctor Strange” suggests the Sorcerer Supreme might be more at home as a supporting player – – say, one of Stark’s Thirteen – – on the big screen. Much like Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye and Paul Bettany’s The Vision, there just doesn’t seem to be enough there –in the film, anyway – to warrant a two-hour movie on the guy – and every couple of years, for that matter. Maybe it’s because the dependable but quaint Cumberbatch (TV’s ‘’Sherlock’’) doesn’t have the gravitas or weight as a Robert Downey Jr (who is absolutely enthralling as Iron Man) or ‘Thor’ alum Chris Hemsworth (whose jokes play a lot better than those offered up by Strange’s here); Cumberbatch looks the part, sure, but he can’t grasp the audience’s attention as well as a more enigmatic A-lister might.
The faults don’t all lie with Cumberbatch’s nimble performance though, the script, by Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill, with its seen-it-all-before assembly and style-over-substance impetus doesn’t do a solid job of seizing attention either. In fact, it’s largely responsible for the thing resembling a print-out from a machine nearing the end of its ink run.
“Strange” feels a bit lazier and less original than some of the beauties that have walked upon the Marvel runway in recent years. Maybe we’ve been spoilt by the delights of “Iron Man”, “Avengers” and “Captain America : The Winter Soldier”, and that’s why it’s so easy to see the tears in spell book here, and if the film had possibly been made back at the beginning of Marvel’s reign – say, back when “Daredevil” was the best there was – we’d likely be sore-handed from all the clapping. But we’re now in a time where superhero movies are some of the finest, most satisfying films being made – thanks to the likes of Christopher Nolan and Joss Whedon – so one can’t afford to be sitting back and doing it missionary style; it’s a time for reverse cowgirl and The pinwheel — get wild, use imagination and make it memorable.
For all its flaws though, there’s still some fun to be had with “Doctor Strange” – the film encompasses some of the most dazzlingly nauseating special effects sequences in quite some time (catch it in IMAX), and it’s never boring, in fact the yarn plays out effortlessly punchy and fast. There’s also some wonderful work in here by supporting players Benedict Wong, as, rather fittingly, Wong, and Tilda Swinton, sans hair, as The Ancient One.
Over to you, Spidey. Go for Cowgirl.