Synopsis from Marvel: Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a brilliant yet arrogant neurosurgeon whose life is turned upside down when he barely survives a devastating car accident. Embarking on a journey of self-discovery, he travels to the Far East where he becomes the protégé of the mysterious Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). A mystical being she opens Stephen’s mind to extraordinary alternate dimensions, which Stephen eventually learns to manipulate in his new guise as superhero Doctor Strange. Soon Stephen’s abilities are put to the ultimate test when villainous Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) threatens the future of the entire world.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
There was never any doubt I would see this film given that it’s both part of the Marvel-verse and has one of my favourite actors as the leading man. In fact the cast list reads like a who’s-who of the bright and brilliant in the acting world – Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen, Rachel McAdams – and combined they thrill.
Benedict sets Dr Steven Strange up as someone egotistical, almost narcissistic, but who has a bundle of neurosis at his core, driving him onwards. He’s downright unpleasant at the beginning and to be honest my first thought when the accident happened was serves you right. But this is a hero story with a delightfully big dollop of character growth and Benedict plays it well. He doesn’t remove Strange’s ego but he tempers it, creating in the end a man who might still be cocky as heck but who has a set of core principles that mean you can really believe that he’s come into his powers as a genuine hero. The comparisons to Iron Man are justified but Benedict doesn’t give us another version of Tony Stark, he gives us a new character who may share a few personality traits but is completely his own man. And he manages, just, to outclass the special effects that make this movie stand out from the rest of the Marvel-verse (and to be honest all the other films out at the moment – although I think Fantastic Beasts might give it a run for its money, the trailer was amazing).
Now I saw the 2D version of the film because my ear problems affect my balance centres and mean that I can struggle to process 3D without ending up feeling mildly queasy at best. I still think the special effects were out of this world and I can only imagine how much more overwhelming and awesome it would be in 3D. There were parts that felt like I’d imagine an acid trip to be, parts that were like a moving MC Escher painting and parts that defy any sort of sensible description at all and all I can say is that they were mesmerising. The best thing about them, though, was that they enhanced the film and the story being told, rather than overshadowing or derailing them. The whole special effects team (and there were hundreds of names in the credits) really deserve all the praise that can be heaped upon them.
Since I’m trying to keep this spoiler free, there is not much more of what I want to say that I can say. However I will explain why this film has not received 5 stars given all the gushing enthusiasm in the paragraphs above. It’s the lack of motivation for the villain. Mads Mikkelsen does an excellent job with Kaecilius and the material that he’s got to work with, but the material itself is sadly lacking. As far as I was concerned, the reasons given for Kaecilius’ descent into evil were neither compelling nor reasonable despite the utter awesomeness of the fight scenes (saying they were mind-bending really does not cover it) I could not switch off the feeling that there was no reason for Kaecilius’ to be fighting at all. That said there were some incredibly positive indications that the next magical villain that Doctor Strange was going to need to deal with has a very compelling and entirely understandable reason for going to the bad, as it were.
So yes, overall, BRILLIANT film, definitely best experienced in the cinema (and probably in 3D if you’re not hampered with ear problems) so get yourself a ticket now!