Dr Strange – Movie Review

For the most part the latest film from the Marvel stable is a lot of fun, even if it does tick all the boxes of your standard origins story. 

Benedict Cumberbatch is on good form as the arrogant, wealthy Stephen Strange, a gifted New York surgeon who during one fateful night has a terrible car crash, careers off the road and sees his own career in tatters also. 

When his hands are crushed by the dashboard, Strange undergoes rehabilitation and even more painful surgery before realising there is little help. However, when he gets wind of a fellow patient who he thought was beyond help, but spends his time playing basketball, Strange goes to find out why. The recovered sports fan seems like the most unlikely person in New York to have gone on a mystical quest, but gives Strange just enough information for him to pack up his things and head off to Nepal. 

There he finds Chiwetol Ejiofor and Tilda Swinton as mystical warriors who will help Strange heal his hands and send him on a mystical quest.

Mads Mikkelsen is on good form as the obligatory bad guy, and there are nice comedic touches that help make the whole outlandish premise far more acceptable. Despite some dazzling visuals and stunning fight scenes, not to mention an impressive Hong Kong sequence in reverse during the third act, it was all a little underwhelming. 

Rachel McAdams was wasted as Strange’s under used love interest, and the finale with the big bad character felt a little dull.

It’s not the worst superhero film I’ve ever seen, and certainly not as bad as Batman versus Superman Dawn of Justice, but given the high water marks of Spider-Man 2 and the original Iron Man, Dr Strange ends up less in some weird mirror verse than in a limbo realm of also ran comic book-inspired movies. 

Thankfully, I’ll repeat the earlier statement. Cumberbatch is spot on as the eponymous spell caster, and is supported by some terrific character actors.

It’ll be intriguing to see how Strange fits into the rest of the Marvel cinematic universe, and we get a hint of that during the closing credits. 


Doctor Not That Strange

Many years ago, in an era before video recorders, (imagine that kids!), I stayed up late one Friday night to watch a 1978 movie. That film was Dr Strange, a forgettable TV fantasy epic starring Peter Hooton and John Mills, based on the classic Marvel comic of the same name. I was never a fan of the comic, but hoped that one day we would see a lavish big screen version. So when the news arrived at that Benedict Cumberbatch was playing the eponymous sorcerer, like millions of fans around the world, I was thrilled by the news. 

Now the trailer has arrived, I’m not so sure.

Thanks to the success of films like The Avengers Captain America and Guardians of the Galaxy, we are in an era where Marvel are taking some serious risks on the lesser known properties. 

One problem with Dr Strange is it looks like it was ghost directed by Christopher Nolan.

Consider the scenes: maverick hero staggering around a Nepalese wintry location? So far, so Batman Begins. A city folding in on itself? Didn’t we see that in Inception six years ago? Even the score sounds like it was composed by Hans Zimmer.

Obviously as these movies cost hundreds of million dollars, the producers want to make it look like the blockbusters we’ve seen before, so we know we are in safe hands. But are we? 

Director Scott Derrickson was responsible for The Day the Earth Stood Still remake, which was not a bad take on the classic 1950s Michael Rennie sci-fi offering. However, the third act turned into a generic orgy of pixels and CGI jiggery-pokery. In short, it was a massive letdown.

If Deadpool taught us anything this year, it’s that fans of Marvel movies are a bit tired of sci-fi fantasy epics that take themselves a bit too seriously. 

We are about to embrace, or run from, the epic that is X-Men: Apocalypse, another of those Bryan Singer movies in which Magneto hovers around, lifting things up and dropping them from a great height. 

The twist this time is that the ubiquitous Oscar Isaac plays the purple bad guy, who looks like he’s stepped from a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers movie.

Judging by the trailer to that movie, there’s not a single laugh in the offing. 

Obviously in the DC camp, there have been reports that Suicide Squad, the Dirty Dozen of superhero movies, expensive re-shoots have been taking place to inject more comedy into the proceedings.

Why? Because many fan boys and girls thought that Batman versus Superman: Dawn of justice was a bit too serious for its own good, and obviously with Deadpool costing a little over $50million and grossing almost $800million, comedy was the way forward.

Marvel’s next big movie, Captain America: Civil War, (or should that be Avengers 2.5?), is with us in the next few weeks, and that also looks like it will test the patience. 

Shoehorning even more Marvel characters into the good guys versus good guys concept, it reminds me of that classic Python sketch in which a world of Supermen is not that special, but one man steps out from the masses – Michael Palin’s Bicycle Repair Man.

And if you exclude excuse the obvious segue, we are in a cycle of costumed hero flix that have outstayed their welcome.

What we want from our heroes is something super, but because there are so many of them Dr Strange is going to look more like Doctor Mundane as he fights for his place in Marvel’s rather crowded cinematic universe.