The Marvel comic book universe continues to expand on film, and now we have a mind-bending movie about one of its more mystical characters, Doctor Strange.
It begins with his origin story – Steven Strange (Cumberbatch) is an excellent, if arrogant New York surgeon who loses the use of his hands following an idiotic car crash (don’t text and drive, kids!). After trying every medical option and alienating the one person who cares for him (Rachel McAdams’ Christine), Strange heads off to Nepal in search of an alternative cure. There he finds the temple of Kamar-Taj and the wise Ancient One (Swinton), who shows him that he has to separate from his physical self, roam around the astral plane and embrace the magical arts that will heal him.
Strange’s first journey into all things mystical is pretty trippy stuff (he falls into his own eyeball, and is embraced by hands that have tiny hands growing from their fingers to infinity, that sort of thing) and it is just the tip of the iceberg in this visual stunner of a movie. There’s a bad guy to fight – Mikkelsen’s Kaecilius, a former student of the Ancient One who has gone rogue and befriended a dark entity who wants to envelop the earth – and the scenes in which time, gravity and even buildings are twisted in battles with him are jaw-dropping stuff.
Watching New York fold in on itself Inception-style is worth the ticket price alone, while there are other unforgettable visual moments that show a special effects team gone wild. There’s also some nice humour amongst the dazzling design, mainly courtesy of Benedict Wong’s Wong, who should be given his own spin-off movie on the basis of his performance here.
In the middle of it all, of course, is Cumberbatch, and he is a perfect egotistic, snarky Strange. The problem is he isn’t very likeable, so you’re not invested in his future, and the supporting characters aren’t drawn well enough to care for, or even hate, either. There is a brief hint of why Kaecilius has gone to the dark side but not enough to make sense, while the potentially likeable characters – Christine and Ejiofor’s Mordo – aren’t given enough screen time to make an impact.
It all means that while this is stunning to look at, it’s not that engaging. Go to marvel at the amazing sights you will see on screen and don’t dwell on the forgettable plot. (And remember, stay for the mid and end of credits scenes – they’re both worth it).
Is Doctor Strange suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
This film is a 12A and there is nothing that should scare children over the age of 10.
There are some fight scenes and scenes on the operating table involving blood.