All Marvel films have a flaw and “Doctor Strange” is no different.
“Captain America: Civil War” was basically a giant two hour trailer for the new Spiderman movie. Sure, it tried to ponder the complexity of conflict but rather than add to the narrative it just smacked of hypocrisy. Thankfully, although possessing a similar running time to that turkey, Benedict Cumberbatch`s foray into the Marvel Cinematic Universe(MCU) is far from the dull, overlong and mildly entertaining effort we have become accustomed to from Stan Lee.
Sure, Strange`s colleague and love interest Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) is a nothing-character, Cumberbatch is dressed like he’s just raided Doctor Who`s wardrobe and his American accent is shoddy but I can get over that. I’m just ecstatic that, for the first time since “Iron Man”, they have bucked the usual Marvel formula of set piece, lame joke, set piece, lame joke, set piece, lame joke. Usually the script only exists to take you from one CGI action sequence to the next.
Very much like Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark, Strange is an arrogant, wealthy man who becomes helpless and must rebuild everything. For Stark that meant creating a metal suit. For Strange it means being stranded in Nepal and becoming a sorcerer.
As the movie formula goes, there must be a fall before he rises again in glory. After an horrific car accident he suffers massive nerve damage in his hands. Looking for a cure -by any means necessary-he travels to Kathmandu to find a Celtic mystic known as The Ancient One (played with delightful light wit by a shaven headed Tilda Swinton). He needs to believe in the otherworldly even though his natural intellect dismisses it as ridiculous.
With his crisp diction and haughty air Cumberbatch has often played intelligent, condescending men. Here he undercuts that persona with a dry sense of humour at his character’s jarring transition from the conventional to the fantastical. It’s an origin story through and through.
Director Scott Derrickson plunges us headfirst into this hallucinogenic topsy-turvy world. The dazzling visuals had my eyes darting across the screen straining to absorb every detail. I swear at one point I could feel them burning. He promised `weird and wild` and boy was he telling the truth.
From Ant-Man`s voyage into cosmic inner space to the prog-rock cityscapes of Thor, the MCU has never shied away from psychedelia. This, however, is a whole new level. It’s an eye-poppingly freaky extravaganza. Christopher Nolan’s dreamscapes in “Inception” look amateur in comparison and that is a phrase I never thought I would hear myself say. Cityscapes are folded, bended and upended to stupendous effect. There’s gravity-defying buoyancy that’s beautiful to behold. Disney’s huge budget is used to spectacular effect. This is the new VFX bar to reach.
For the first time since 2008`s “Iron Man” Marvel have finally made a textbook blockbuster superhero movie. It’s a cinematic experience ripped straight from the pages of a comic book and it’s done with high-IQ wit. Thankfully minus the po-faced ponderings that are plaguing the rival DC universe. Its eye candy AND brain candy. You need to see this on the big screen.