Review: Doctor Strange

Benedict Cumberbatch has joined the long line of actors portraying superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Stephen Strange, a former neurosurgeon who loses his talent due to a horrific car accident and looks for any method of healing but instead is drawn into the world of the mystic arts. Guided by The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), alongside Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Wong (Benedict Wong) to stop Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) from unleashing an unstoppable force.

Cumberbatch, despite his struggles with the American accent, surprisingly his Boston accent in Black Mass was slightly more convincing, he was well cast for the role; he can portray a mix of strong confidence and charming arrogance with ease and yet somehow it feels less potent than usual. The strange (no pun intended) factor is that the swagger he demonstrates early on as the normal version rather the mystical, is much stronger than when he become the Doctor Strange we’re waiting for, it feels very unusual and in all fairness it does come back towards the end of the film but there’s a large portion, a learning curve, where that confidence isn’t quite as effective, or charming. It is however, an enjoyable portrayal, particularly once he’s honed his skills but it still doesn’t feel like the most overwhelming impressive role for Cumberbatch. There’s also little to say of the supporting cast other than that despite Swinton’s performance being good, she was doomed to fail in a role that was badly cast and feels wrong from the start. Chiwetel and Wong give good performances but realistically feel like typical plot devices and sounding boards rather than being involved, although two Benedicts in one film? What are the chances. McAdams is given the typical girlfriend role, with an added intelligence and purpose but not enough to push her out of that stereotypical trap. Mikkelsen again does well but somehow feels out of place, his performance comes across as sinister which is suited to his role and yet not quite developed enough to be effective.

The hugely successfully aspect of the film has to be the visual experience, the VFX team on this film have outdone themselves, it’s mind-bending and mesmerising to watch, practically the very core of the film and most notably it’s something we haven’t really seen before in this context and adding new elements to the superhero genre is always a pleasant surprise. It also has a good and sufficient story to keep the pace moving throughout, it happily does not fall into the classic problem of spending too much time introducing the character and giving an origin story which leaves too little time for the real events. However it does potentially feel as though it has been slightly simplified to leave it more open to wider and younger audiences, A.K.A. to make more money which you have to expect from a film with a budget of $165 million. Although the film has a major weakness in its attempts at humour, it simply does not work, the little that’s thrown in falls entirely flat and misses out on giving the film more of a charisma that you’ll find in most other Marvel films and what you would have expected to find with this particular character, at the very least to make use of his quick wit. Another weakness being the use of the villain, it’s something you see more of these days but a set-up that is one villain leading to a bigger, more powerful villain which ultimately means that neither of them get enough screen time or involvement to make them feel threatening other than by a simple use of violence, which of course you don’t see because it has a low rating.

As a whole, it’s a good film, it’s different than your average superhero flick and a nice change of pace for Marvel who has become better at varying what they’re offering as of late: will it knock your socks off? Probably not, but will it be a fun experience? Yes. The stunning effects work will stay at the forefront of the film and it’s more than worth seeing just for that alone but it’s an enjoyable, entertaining film throughout.

Verdict: 7/10

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