At this stage in the MCU’s continued efforts to dominate the world (or at least the box-office) change is important. In less than a decade, and with a staggering thirteen films behind them – to put that figure into context, there have only been twenty-four James Bond films made over the last fifty-years or so – it’s no wonder that the studio would want to shake things up by focusing on their lesser known, more weird and wonderful properties.
If you thought Guardians of the Galaxy, a film which features a giant tree and a gun-toting raccoon as two of its central characters was about as bizarre as it could get, you were wrong. The latest introduction to Marvel’s cinematic world, fittingly named Doctor Strange, takes the unusual to a whole other level and pushes the visual boundaries further than any other superhero film to date.
Set within the more mystical realms of the studio’s ever-expanding universe, Benedict Cumberbatch is perfectly cast as the arrogant but brilliant surgeon whose resulting injuries from a car crash leave him unable to perform his duites. Failed by modern medicines, he sets out in search of a mythical sanctuary named Kamar-Taj, a place which may just hold the secret to healing his shaking hands. Whilst there, however, he discovers a world of sorcery and soon finds himself at the centre of a battle between the forces of good and the evil.
From the introductory sequence that sees Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One – a piece of casting that has steeped the film in some ‘whitewashing’ controversy – battle a former-student-turned-traitor on a building which is bent, broken and folded like an architectural Swiss roll, the visual ambition of the film is remarkable. And as the story progresses with Strange travelling through the bright and colourful multi-verse, as well as a mirror dimension which allows the sorcerers to turn vast cityscapes upside down and back to front, you’ll want to make sure you this latest superhero outing on the biggest screen possible.
The Inception-like imagery is worth the price of admission on its own, before taking into account the wonderful cast – Cumberbatch is joined by an equally brilliant, if underused cast that includes Rachel McAdams and Chiwetel Ejiofor amongst others – and the usual brand of humour that Marvel have become famous for, with Strange’s magical Cloak of Levitation stealing the show in terms of laughs.
It’s a shame then that Doctor Strange does begin to suffer when dealing with all the usual tropes we’ve come to expect from a comic book adaptation, and origin stories in particular. Like previous Marvel productions, the villain here is as paper-thin as a page from a comic book – Thor’s Loki remains the most interesting baddie in this universe – and the narrative starts to feel baggy as the set-pieces grow larger and larger in the final third.
Still, the spectacular visuals and terrific cast end up being just enough to save Doctor Strange from its weaker script. In terms of where it sits in Marvel’s catalogue, this is mid-level stuff which is nowhere near as thrilling as Captain America: Civil War and nowhere near as awful as Iron Man 2. Elitists and newcomers alike should be more than happy with Scott Derrickson’s picture, but both will probably agree that the visuals are the biggest thing to take away from it.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com