Benedict Cumberbatch settles rather nicely into the Marvel universe, as he dons the cloak and mantle of the MCU’s (Marvel Cinematic Universe) latest superhero. Doctor Strange.
Easing into an American accent, as easily as he does Strange’s costume, Cumberbatch fits the role perfectly, bringing to life the doctor’s arrogance, ego, and eventually his humbled, giving self that is willing to die to protect the people of the Earth when they are threatened by the darkness that lurks in the multiverse and alternate realities.
Strange’s origin story sees the egocentric and brilliant doctor suffering a debilitating blow in a car crash. Unwilling to admit that his career as a surgeon is over, he seeks out all possible treatments, even rumours of spiritual ones. This drive leads him to Nepal, and eventually into the tutelage of Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and the revered, Ancient One (Tilda Swinton).
Here, both Strange’s and the audiences minds are blown wide open with a stunning and trippy visual explanation of astral projection, alternate universes and dizzying dimensions.
As he learns, he begins to realise he can be more and hopefully just in time to stop the dangerous Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen, who may not have been given enough to do, but works strongly with what he’s got) from bringing down the Earth’s spiritual protection, and leaving it open to destruction by a dark universe entity known as Dormammu.
There is humour here, a staple of the Marvel films. No matter how dark, or serious the films get, there is always a place for levity and a sense of fun, and the series continues its top-drawer casting, but in this case, almost all of them take a back seat to the simply stunning visual effects that ARE the film.
Buildings and streets fold in on themselves, gravity and time change direction at a wave of the hand, it’s almost overloading, visually, and there is great use of the IMAX format when things get really weird, or landscapes are revealed.
But, as with all the Marvel films so far, there is a fairly solid story foundation, and some nicely developed characters. Strange’s origin story not only introduces the concepts of magic and the like to Strange, but also to the audience. Until now, they’ve only had to deal with superheroes, but here they create Strange’s world, a world we can recognise, and then, once they have you on the character’s journey, the blow the doors of perception wide (something hinted at in the opening sequence).
Cumberbatch seems to be having a great time, and he’s given a fantastic supporting cast to play off of, including, Rachel McAdams as Dr. Christine Palmer and Benedict Wong as Wong.
The production design, the attention to detail, the Stan Lee cameo, continues to be the best it can be. I love that Marvel and Disney are taking their time to tell these stories right, to continue their world-building with each film, and letting them grow organically towards the giant team films.
Now, to be clear, this is just a superhero movie, there is no academy award winning screenplay, or the like, it’s meant to be entertainment, and it is. Marvel knows what it’s doing, and continues to crank out solid film after solid film, and tying them all into a larger fabric – you should have heard the oh of realisation from the audience as a whole when a certain tidbit is revealed in the last few minutes of the film.
This one is fun, visually mindblowing, and brings another, arguably lesser known, Marvel superhero to the fore.
Make Mine Marvel.