It’s not so strange that Doctor Strange has taken so long to make it to the modern Marvel universe although, as one of their lesser known characters, he’s popular enough amongst Marvel fanboys. First appearing in 1963, this strangest of strange superheroes has already traversed the alternative realms of comic books, video games, television and film.
Doctor Strange is an origin story for the hero that helped to add a more mystical element to Marvel’s superhero universe. With an ego to match his skill, Dr Stephen Strange is a neurosurgeon who loses hope after a serious car accident destroys his ability to continue as a surgeon. Hearing of a past patient who fully recovered and re-learnt to walk despite impossible odds, Dr Strange follows the same path to enlightenment, travelling to Nepal where he finds the Ancient One and becomes a hesitant pupil in channelling life’s energies through mind over matter.
Based on the comic book by Steve Ditko, director Scott Derrickson co-wrote the action-packed script with Jon Spaihts and C Robert Cargill, using a surprising amount of humour for a usually dark character study. Doctor Strange offers as many laughs as it does thrills, which is a highly enjoyable balance.
Visually, Doctor Strange tops anything Marvel has released so far. Aside from a few unnecessary shaky-cam moments, the imaginative CGI is released to near perfection with stunning optical illusions creating an impossible mind-maze of which way is up. Buildings fold in on themselves and traffic navigates over three-dimensional surfaces. This is one of the few films where 3D enhances the effects rather than just cashing in on the gimmick.
Leading the cast, Benedict Cumberbatch can do no wrong, which is nothing unexpected for such a consummate actor. He layers the arrogant Doctor Strange with insecurities, emotion and bravado, offering a dry sense of humour as he grows from the self-absorbed surgeon to the hero he becomes. He is more than ably supported by fellow stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams and Benedict Wong, with Mads Mikkelsen as the evil Kaecilius and the ever-marvellous Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One.
Running less that two hours, Doctor Strange is fast-paced and visually stunning. The story set-up passes quickly at the beginning of the film, dedicating most of the run time to Strange’s training and deadly encounters. The wit is both surprising and memorable, found equally in the verbal and visual elements.
There’s the usual post-credit teasers for what’s to come, both during and after the closing titles for those who care to stay seated. Long before then however, Doctor Strange is an absorbing and unique addition to the Marvel Universe that will only complicate the broader Marvel superhero universe in upcoming films.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 8
Check out our photo gallery of the Adelaide premiere of Doctor Strange.