Doctor Strange does a lot of new interesting things on film, stitched together by many influences of before. Fights between souls, palavers with galactic beings, and foot chases along New York skyscrapers may remind modern audiences of The Matrix, Inception and various comic books but never before has it been seen on such a scale and never before with the witty and ass-kicking Cloak of Levitation. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is expanding possibilities for future adventures and even daring to switch up how their third act climaxes play out.
So it’s a little sad to report that Stephen Strange follows the path of Tony Stark a little bit. Stark was of course an arrogant tech genius lay low by a life threatening experience and imprisonment. While wounded his gifts and expertise remained unharmed even if his purpose in life was changed. Stephen Strange is arrogant as an incredibly gifted and brilliant neurosurgeon that has a car accident. It’s a key difference that Stephen’s gifts are taken from him and his arrogance takes a lot longer to be stripped away. Casual fans though may find too much familiar in this comic book origin story. The film becoming more interesting as he leaves behind love interest Dr Christine Palmer and sets forth for Nepal to find Kamar-Tag and learn how to heal himself from the teachings of the sorcerer The Ancient One ( Tilda Swinton). Strange proves a quick study (maybe a little too quick his first showdown with powerful sorcerers sees him handle himself very well for a rookie) getting help from Karl Mordor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Wong who is the keeper of Ancient Texts and gets most of the film’s best bits (Benedict Wong). Through them Dr. Strange becomes a healed man immersed with a new identity and purpose when a disenchanted former follower Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) starts an all-out war against the Ancient One and those that stand with her.
The action scenes and effects are first rate not just for their look but also for how fresh they feel. Marvel films recently have been criticised for all retaining an aircraft hangar/industrial park aesthetic and director Scott Derrickson may go some way to challenging this with old fashioned dressed up studio sets but also real location shooting in Kathmandu, London, New York and Hong Kong on the streets that look characteristic of those cities in particular. The cast which includes Rachel McAdams and Michael Stuhlbarg sometimes feel wasted here but the dynamic between Strange, Mordor, Wong and the Ancient One is strong. Mikkelsen may not get too much either neither being particularly threatening nor scenery chewing but he still gets a few chuckles and does his fight scenes well. The film is alive with the possibilities that this character and his realm of influence opens up. As the second half rolls on, Strange takes up his new mantle a bit too easily and set piece after set piece follow each other without any real further character development but the finale flips Hollywood conventions and revels in the tricks that Strange can pull off. There is a lot here to enjoy and with a little bit of luck it won’t be long before we see Dr Strange again.
20 thoughts on “DOCTOR STRANGE STRANGELY FAMILIAR YET NEW”
Really enjoyed this one, too.I hear the Doctor and the Hulk will be joining Thor in ‘Ragnarok’ later in the year.
Hulk is a lock and given the tease at the end of this film I think it would just be bad manners if Dr. Strange didn’t show up at some point. 🙂
I like Tilda Swinton a great deal, and love Cumberbatch as Sherlock.
And I actually know Benny Wong reasonably well too. (From my London days)
But I won’t be watching this. It just isn’t my thing.
Thanks for a good review as always, Lloyd.
Best wishes, Pete.
You’re very kind Pete, may I suggest to check out Rachel McAdams as well. Loved her in About Time of course but also Morning Glory and Spotlight. Now what’s this about you knowing Benny Wong?
My mate’s son went to Uni in Manchester to study drama, and knew him from there.. They all used to work in and hang around the Union Theatre in Southwark, South London, after he graduated. We went to see any of the plays that they were in, and always stopped for late drinks after the show.
That is very cool Pete, is your son still involved in the arts?
It is my mate’s son. His name is Ian Groombridge. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2049008/
He now runs the cafe/bar of the Union Theatre, and still tries to get acting jobs now and then, with little success. At the same time, we also got very friendly with Johnny Harris, and still keep in touch with him too.
I wish Mr Groombridge good luck. He’s chasing a dream and holding down a gig. Most of us lack what it takes. Thanks Pete, very interesting.
I’m not much of a Marvel U fan. The formulaic plots make me yawn despite all the motion on the screen. BUT I was surprised when I saw this in the theater how much I was entertained. Probably because I like Cumberbatch and Tilda so much.
Great cast. What did you think of Benedict Wong?
I thought it a shame! He was displayed as a giggling idiot. Since he was one of the only Asians, it didn’t sit well. He needed a bigger role. So too, of Ejifor and Mikkelsen with the hideous eye make up, a waste of talent. Well, goodness, you are going to convince me it was not that good of a film. Did you like the relationship played out between Strange and Rachel McAdams’s character?
No I didn’t. Huge fan of Rachel McAdams and nothing wrong with their relationship or acting but seemed more a waste like Stuhlburg and like Mikkelsen. I’ve read online that Wong’s character originally in the comics was a bit of an Asian man servant like the sidekick for the Green Hornet. To this end I enjoyed Wong being the librarian and teacher to the naughty student of Strange. It’s a conventional joke perhaps to have these serious pious sorcerers listening to Beyoncé but I fell for it. I laughed. But you’ve allowed me to consider this from another angle and I thank you for it. At the end of the day I liked Dr Strange and so did you. That’s a win. I saw Battlefield Earth the other day and that is not a win. 🙂
I laughed at the Beyonce scene, too. I didn’t know he was a sidekick, but that’s stereotypical, as well. Not equal but less than and not to be taken seriously. Anyway, yes, I liked it!
There were a series of films I needed to review but wasn’t particularly excited about so I set myself a goal to write all five in one day and preferably stick to 500 words. I think one came in at 501 words and the longest was 850 with most around 600s.
You’ve been prolific recently without compromising on quality, great stuff Lloyd.
Like Pete this isn’t my cup of tea, but I share your appreciation for Rachel McAdams.
Thank you Paul, that is a matter of opinion but thank you anyway. 🙂 No loss for you then missing Dr. Strange, McAdams has more impact in other films.
I mostly just wanted to get these reviews out of the way and so set myself a goal of getting the five done in one day. So I’m glad you liked them.
This one was fabulous movie, so intriguing and the dimensions were fascinating, too. 🙂
I’m glad you liked it, look out for Doctor Strange to return in the next Thor movie.