12A. Marvel Studios.
Still on supermarket shelves after several weeks now in both DVD and Blu-ray. For non-Benedict Cumberbatch fans is it still a worthwhile buy? Will you watch it more than once?
A sanctum is breached, the librarian executed and act of vandalism is perpetrated on a precious book when intruders rip the instructions for a ritual from its pages. A brief inter-dimensional, gravity defying martial arts encounter fails to stop the thief and a warning is issued.
Super-surgeon, life-saver, egocentric Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is successful and highly respected, but his arrogance steered his failed relationship with fellow doctor Christine Palmer (Rachel Adams) onto the rocks. One dark night his love of multi-tasking crashes his career, leaving a broken car and a broken man with broken hands.
Several failed operations later; Strange can barely shave or write. Frustrated, penniless and desperate he gets from his much tried physiotherapist the name of the only man who made a full recovery after devastating damage. Strange follows the trail to Kamar-taj, a Himalayan place of mystic learning far beyond his material boy world of matter. He is shown the multiverse and a dark dimension where the dark power of Dormammu threatens to consume earth and our reality.
Strange is championed and instructed by Master Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who persuades the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) to accept him as student. Strange learns the creation of inter-dimensional portals, the significance of relics, accesses the restricted section of the library and the time bending Eye of Agamotto. Before he is ready or willing, Strange becomes caught up in a mystical conflict as former acolyte Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), Dormammu’s agent begins preparing the way for his master’s invasion.
In amongst the space bending, kaleidoscopic, soaring, flooring ride there are flashes of humour, pauses for study, practice, and philosophical conversation. Strange’s relationship with the librarian Wong is particularly touching. Refreshingly, Christine is a heroine who deals with the shock of other realms sensibly. Doctor Strange takes us from riches to rags, robbery and rescue, science and magic, and through the looking glass. It shows us the Everest Test, New York and the Battle of Bleecker Street, leading up to the cosmic Hong Kong showdown. See Doctor Strange and learn how to dispose of an assailant on the astral plane (don’t try this at home), the power of reverse gear and the unexpected significance of Shamballa.
Doctor Strange is warm-hearted and action packed with dazzling exploration of effects pioneered by Inception and the rolling, unfolding, fragmenting, rejoining buildings and streets. If you liked that film or want a more spiritual Marvel adventure, a Harry Potter plus, enjoy architecture, astrophysics or Kung Fu Panda then you’ll likely want to take Doctor Strange home. With so much attention to detail in the effects and fine performances from a talented, distinguished cast, this is more than a one-night stand. There’s another film to follow so you might want to found a collection.
As well as the CGI created by Industrial Light and Magic, makeup by Jeremy Woodhead (Lord of the Rings) also deserves a mention. Kaecilius’ defection to the dark side gets him truly spectacular eye makeup. Although this does not compensate for his evil intent or designer stubble. He has to go.
There are cameos by Meera Syal and Doctor Strange’s legendary creator Stan Lee, and be sure to keep watching right to the end of the credits. There is pertinent advice in the last line and two surprise extra story nuggets.
Is Doctor Strange a feel-better film? Yes, on the whole, because it is hopeful: even in the face of loss there are still other things that can make life meaningful, even more so in fact; mind over matter; intellect over might; and good will triumph. The violence is comic book as you might expect from Marvel but not every character makes it to the final curtain or stays the course. However, the story is distractingly intriguing and the visuals are startlingly beautiful. All to own currently (June 2017) for the price of a cinema seat.