I will start this post off by saying that I am not a massive superhero fan. My favourite superhero movies include films like; ‘Ant-Man’ (2015) and ‘Deadpool’ (2016) (because of their humour), some of the ‘X-Men’ films (because I like the idea of mutants), and of course Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008) (because of its gangster element). I tried to like ‘The Avengers’ and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ (2014), but sadly I just don’t… However, despite all my efforts trying to dislike ‘Doctor Strange’ (the advert kind of annoyed me), I actually really liked it.
Unfortunately, I do not know any of the back story to ‘Doctor Strange’ (directed by Scott Derrickson), so will just relay the plot as set out by the film. The film starts with Dr Steven Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who is an extremely gifted but egotistical neurosurgeon, badly injuring himself in a car accident. He tragically loses the ability to use his hands due to extensive nerve damage, so with the help of Dr Christine Palmer (Amy McAdams), pursues experimental surgeries, all to no avail. However, Strange discovers that an old patient who was a diagnosed paraplegic is mysteriously able to walk, and directs Strange to a place called Kamar-Taj for help. Whilst here, he finds someone called the Ancient One (Tilda Swindon), who teaches him Mystic Arts/that Earth is composed of different dimensions, which are protected by 3 buildings (called Sanctums), which the sorcerers have the task of protecting. However, the Ancient One is reluctant to teach Strange due to his arrogant yearning for learning, as she sees parallels between Strange and Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), another pupil, who turned to the dark side and deals with the Dark Dimension.
I could poke holes in this film in terms of its plot. Parts of the storyline were very weak, as was some of the script. For example, I feel like the film eluded to their being a massive show down between the good and evil forces of the movie, but feel that the film sadly did not deliver. In hindsight, this is probably due to the fact that Doctor Strange is so intellectual (using his brains over brane), but do feel that the film was just setting itself up for the rest of the franchise (which I guess is not a bad thing?)
If you look past the fact that Benedict Cumberbatch’s American accent is pretty shit, his overall acting is actually alright. It appears as if this egotistical, extremely intelligent superhero was perfectly crafted for Cumberbatch. His arrogance for learning and overcoming his setbacks are intermingled with hints of compassion, from which he empathetically learns his duty to save the world rather than himself. Similarly, I feel like the Ancient One was a role suited specifically for Tilda Swindon. She has a dominant, commanding aura about her, which fits this character perfectly. My main issue with the acting in this film was that I wish that Mads Mikkelsen was featured more. I love him as a villain – he brings such a presence to evil roles. However, in this film, he was just not around long enough to impose himself. Likewise, Amy McAdams was not featured long enough. I can see how her character (Dr Christine Palmer) humanises Strange through the narrative of their previous relationship and history. Nonetheless, I feel like the emotion between her and Strange lacked passion in order for it to be believable. This was probably due to Strange’s selfish arrogance at wanting to be the best and sacrificing love for this. However, the awkward script further diluted their unsubstantial romance. Again, this is probably a device used to mirror Strange’s flawed, narcissist traits.
My favourite part of the film was the use of CGI. The idea that time and dimensions could be bent was brilliantly realised within this film, and made me wish I could watch films in 3D (sadly my eyes don’t work with this). Usually I don’t like CGI (I believe that Computer Generated Images should predominantly be used as a flourish in film, trying to accomplish realistic images, rather than extensively used so that they overpower the entire image – i.e. CGI should be used to make the impossible possible, not vice versa). However, in this film, I think that this effect was perfect, as this technique was used as an idea that Mystic Arts can bend time and space, and the cinema literally showed this in an amazing way. I was in absolute awe of the moving buildings and dimensions that collapsed within themselves, as well as the astral colours, which symbolised other worlds. The soundtrack to this film was composed by Michael Giacchino, who is one of my favourite composers (my favourite being that of the ‘Star Trek’ films). Giacchino writes such compelling scores that flow so brilliantly with the dynamic pictures.
It is extremely evident that the predominate focus of this film was the visual effects. So for me, visually this film was an absolute hit, and if you can, watch it in 3D – I guarantee it will blow your mind! Parts of the script (like the Doctor’s strained attempts at romance, which mirrored his awkward persona), just didn’t work – but the humour almost did… a couple of funny one liners, and acknowledgement of the Marvel multiverse (through a nod to ‘The Avengers’ and ‘Thor’) made me laugh/smile. Nonetheless, I went in with low expectations, and came out wanting to re-envisage what i’d seen. I wish the Earth’s dimensions bent/shatter like they do in ‘Doctor Strange’, and that Mystic Arts were real!