'Doctor Strange' is the story of Stephen Strange, a former neurosurgeon who embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts.
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch ('Sherlock', 'Star Trek Into Darkness'), the latest entry to the MCU is simultaneously a return to its roots and a broadening of its horizons. The plot is a routine one, especially within the world that Marvel has created. One that vividly mirrors the like of the first 'Iron Man', as a man finds his life drastically altered, his world view transformed, and his purpose renewed in the most fantastical of ways.
And that is why a belief in superhero fatigue may be a tad premature. Like ice-cream, each film of the MCU might be of the same mold but each has a distinct flavour that makes it unique and allows it to stand on its own. Like 'Guardians of the Galaxy' and 'Ant-Man' before it, 'Doctor Strange' is the most emphatic proof of that. If the 'Captain America' movies are delicious, reliable vanilla, then Doctor Strange is Neapolitan covered in sprinkles of every colour.
Judging a film based strongly on the visuals is almost never a good idea, but 'Doctor Strange' is easily an exception to the rule. The effects poured into many of the sequences can only be described as the visual embodiment of a Pink Floyd song or 'Inception' on LSD as described by Terry Pratchett. They are a treat; beautifully - and sometimes terrifyingly - realised. Rather than just eye-candy, however, they serve a narrative function, as well as the occasion injection of humour, allowing Stephen Strange to have his mind and skillset expanded. As well as expanding the audience's scope of the Marvel Cinematic Universe right alongside him.
He's arrogant, he's brash, he's brilliant, and underneath it all there beats a rarely seen yet ever present heart. Cumberbatch encompasses each of this traits with his usual, expert finesse, juggling both the pathos and humour of the character with seeming ease and an American accent that, whilst jarring at first, grows on you.
Unfortunately, many of the other roles aren't quite as well served. But such is the case when their storied pasts are mostly offered up through dialogue, if at all. Rachel McAdams' Christine Palmer serves a narrative function and provides a tether to Doctor Strange's humanity, but little else. Benedict Wong is mostly a source of comic-relief and exposition. Both do well with what they are given, but are even overshadowed at times by a cloak which will easy be to this generation what Aladdin's magic carpet was to kids of the 90s.
And each give everything to their roles. Swinton is wonderfully ethereal and packed with world-weary yet hopeful wisdom. Ejiofor is all strength and nobility, offering a great guide and foil to Cumberbatch's Strange. And Mikkelsen is equal parts charm and menace, driven by an ambition that could almost be described as understandable, especially given the details of his past. He may not quite reach the peak of MCU villainy, but he is certainly far from the worst of the bunch, lacking only a little more fleshing out of his aforementioned past.
The plot may be a tad run-of-the-mill, especially by Marvel's standards, but with one of strongest all-round casts put together within the MCU, supported ably by good writing, a rapid pace, and solid direction, the combined whole might just be one of the strongest entries to date.
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