Film Review: Doctor Strange
Cast : Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Tilda Swinton
Director : Scott Derrickson
Genre : superhero, fantasy, adventure
Doctor Strange is your typical superhero origin story complete with snazzy Inception-like special effects, ‘exotic’ settings (or so it would seem to a western audience) and a hilarious narrative. It features a very talented but arrogant surgeon, an enigmatic androgynous mentor, a supporting female cast member passing off as an unconvincing love interest and very cardboard villains.
So what makes this latest MCU offering so special? Benedict Cumberbatch’s Stephen Strange is quite similar to Tony Stark/Iron Man-same arrogance and same genius, minus the playboy streak. But following a disastrous car accident that strips him off his power to use his fingers for surgery, he undergoes a transformative experience. When science fails to cure him, he turns to faith and travels to a secretive monastery in Nepal hoping for an answer.
Of course, he discovers more than he expects. At first he’s extremely sceptical, but he undergoes months of rigorous training in the mystic arts under the guidance of a mysterious Celtic leader, the ‘Ancient One’ till he appears to have mastered the arts of combat and opening portals as well as exhausted the library’s collection of esoteric books. But soon enough, evil strikes with the arrival of former student and this movie’s villain who seeks to bargain with an extra-dimensional being for immortality. Doctor Strange realizes he must shed his former identity and battle these new enemies to preserve planet earth, etc.
Altogether, the whole plot feels way too formulaic and fits neatly. Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton deliver compelling performances and the 3D is absolutely top-notch and mesmerizing. Yet despite being rather cliched, the movie tries to innovate. The climax in particular is rather hilarious and although there are very few female characters, none of them are sexualized which is a big step for any superhero movie unlike DC’s recent Suicide Squad. Christine’s character only serves to anchor Strange to his former life as a famous doctor and obvious love interest but appears rather poorly realized. And finally the screen play is peppered with humuorous one-liners and does fairly well as commercial entertainment.
So, yes, despite being mostly what qualifies as a conventional superhero blockbuster, Doctor Strange does do some things differently in the manner similar to Marvel’s Ant Man. Moreover, if you’re a diehard MCU fan, the post-credits scenes are a great surprise especially if you’ve been following the build-up to the Infinity Wars very closely. Meanwhile, the movie makes for an entertaining watch and welcomes Cumberbatch into the already-crowded pantheon of Marvel superheroes. This is a fun roller-coaster ride that is definitely worth your money and the time.