SPOILER-FREE REVIEW: Doctor Strange
Needing to inject fresh, unknown blood into its cinematic universe, Marvel releases its, get ready to sigh, strangest movie yet.
Benedict Cumberbatch plays his biggest role yet. Folks have heard of Sherlock Holmes, of course, but enough actors have delved into the role to make Cumberbatch a swirl in the milieu that’s made the character what he is in our culture. Consider that Cumberbatch is one of three actors to portray Holmes just in this decade.
Dr. Steven Strange hasn’t graced the big screen in 40 years, making him unfamiliar to the common theater-goer younger than 50. Thank Marvel chief Kevin Feige for that. Doctor Strange‘s creators are free to make the choices needed for a fun flick, not chained to a faithful adherence to source material.
Dr. Strange is another genius portrayed by Cumberbatch, this time a medical doctor who can’t help talking down to his less than capable coworkers. Ring like Sherlock? How do you think Cumberbatch got the part?
Strange falls victim to aggressive driving habits that ruin his money-making hands, hands that only he, the world’s greatest neurosurgeon, could have fixed. Plagued with an aversion to failure, he spends his last dime to meet The Ancient One.
Tilda Swinton and Chiwetel Ejiofor flank Cumberbatch, making that three British actors hiding out in Nepal. I might could buy that were Doctor Strange released in Kipling’s era. The pill’s harder to swallow, especially because The Ancient One–Celtic in the film–sets up shop in prime Buddhist real estate.
Turning your gaze from testy questions of culture politics: how ’bout those effects?! Yes, they are stunning. See this film in 3D. The magicians in Doctor Strange can bend spacetime to Inception-level reality shaping. Scratch that, these people are far beyond the dreamworld.
When not wielding sparky Spirograph patterns, Doctor Strange‘s wizards crank hallways and shift earth-scapes on a dial. When time shifting enters into the mix, you are nudged toward a groan that says “Now all plot points are valid.”
And in Doctor Strange they nearly are. The multiverse, time loops, dark dimensions, mystic energy weapons–this film’s got ’em all.
Just in time for the Pokemon re-craze, the true villain behind Mads Mikkelsen’s charred-eye Kaecilius is a purple face-rippler named Dormamu, a beast outside of time seeking to catch all the worlds. Earth’s next. Try saying “Dormamu” and come away sounding scared. You can’t.
And neither can the heroes of Doctor Strange. That’s OK, they know they are in a silly movie. The Ancient One showed a sense of humor I was prepared for, as did Dr. Strange. Cumberbatch and Swinton aren’t my first choices for comedic relief, but I guess Kevin James was unavailable.
To enjoy Doctor Strange, pretend that points that don’t make sense do, and when jokes are cracked they aren’t falling flat. With most Marvel movies I am an avid Kool-Aid drinker, though I wait until others have had a taste before sipping mine.
Exploder viewing guide: See it in 3D.