The latest Marvel superhero movie (its 14th title) has a strong set up, cutting edge effects and a traditional good versus evil storyline. Doctor Strange deals with alternate dimensions and what is known as the multiverse (I take that to mean multiple universes).
It is the story of an arrogant, self-centred, world-famous neurosurgeon, Dr Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), whose life changes forever after a horrific car accident robs him of the use of his hands. When traditional medicine fails him, he is forced to look for healing and hope in an unlikely place, a mysterious enclave in the Himalayas known as Kamar-Taj. He quickly learns that that is not just a centre for healing but also the front line of a battle against unseen dark forces bent on destroying the world. Before long Dr Strange, armed with newly acquired magical powers, is forced to choose whether to return to his life of fortune and status, or leave it all behind to defend the planet as the most powerful sorcerer in existence.
His primary teacher is The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), a wise and centuries-old figure who has safeguarded the secrets of the mystic arts for a very long time. She is aided by Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and librarian Wong (Benedict Wong), while their adversary is the evil Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen). Dr Strange also carries a torch for a fellow surgeon, Dr Palmer (Rachel McAdams), whom he has treated shabbily.
As I intimated, the origin story about how Dr Strange came to be who he is is strong and focused. I am pleased that the filmmakers took their time over this.
The special effects, such that buildings literally fold in on themselves and characters move through time and space effortlessly, are mighty impressive. So too the training and frustrations Dr Strange goes through to gain an understanding of that which is subject to his natural skepticism. Once the fighting with the dark forces started though the movie began to lose me, insofar as it became just another duel to the death scenario, albeit with a cavalcade of tricks.
Still, director and co-writer Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) is to be commended for letting his imagination go wild and for taking Doctor Strange down an intriguing path. As Derrickson says: “The (Doctor Strange) comics were bold, trippy, hallucinogenic and fantastical, but at the same time they always treating these mystical things as though they are real. And I’m a person who thinks that they are real.” Well, perhaps not, but this is one phantasmagorical trip.
Cumberbatch is impressive in the lead role – his dry humour and “greater than thou” attitude giving his character an edge. Remember to stay on until after the credits because there is a final scene that introduces us to the next Doctor Strange adventure, this one with a strong Australian component. Rated M, Doctor Strange scores a 7 out of 10.
Director: Scott Derrickson
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Release Date: 27 October 2016
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television