Verdict: While it hardly reinvents the superhero genre, DOCTOR STRANGE breaks new ground with some stunning visuals
2016 saw the release of numerous superhero movies and TV series. DEADPOOL. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. X-MEN: APOCALYPSE. LUKE CAGE. DAREDEVIL (season 2). And those are only the Marvel-affiliated offerings. From DC we had BATMAN V SUPERMAN, as well as SUICIDE SQUAD. In a market that is already over-saturated, do we really need another superhero film?
Marvel thinks so.
DOCTOR STRANGE is the story of Stephen Strange, an acclaimed neurosurgeon whose career is ruined by a life-changing car accident. Strange (played very ably by Benedict Cumberbatch) goes on a spiritual journey to Kamar-Taj, where he learns of ancient mystical arts that will allow him to unlock the magical secrets of the universe… Strange takes to these arts quickly, becoming adept at magical manipulation. He learns of a war between the Ancient One (played by Tilda Swinton) and her former apprentice Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen). Strange becomes embroiled in Kaecilius’ plot to allow an otherworldy entity to destroy the Earth…
From that summary, you’ll probably guess that DOCTOR STRANGE doesn’t really tread much new ground. For all the majesty and mysticism, STRANGE is predominantly a superhero movie. Although it features magic – and plenty of it – the presentation of said powers is very much as another form of superpower. The plot is a variation of the origin story with which we are so familiar: Marvel, as a studio, pretty much has this pinned down by now.
So why should you go and see DOCTOR STRANGE?
What really makes STRANGE different to the other superhero releases this year is the visuals. They’re stunning. This is THE MATRIX meets INCEPTION. We’re treated to warped realities, to twisted landscapes, to spatial corruptions. STRANGE takes the visuals of INCEPTION and pushes them to the limits of cinematography. It’s a real treat for the eyes, and in that sense alone it’s different to anything else we’ve seen from Marvel. I saw it in 2D, but I can imagine how a 3D (or even IMAX) presentation it would be incredible.
I should also mention the cast. Swinton and Cumberbatch are clearly having fun with these roles. Cumberbatch basically suits the role of Dr Strange as well as Hugh Jackman does that of Wolverine: he feels very Dr Strange, and he looks very Dr Strange. I know that there will be some fans who disagree with that assessment (Strange is one of those cult comic heroes who has, quite rightly, a dedicated fanbase), but that was my impression. Swinton, as the Ancient One (in a very different interpretation of the character from that presented in the comics), also plays her role well.
STRANGE doesn’t break the mold. It doesn’t even really stretch it, but it succeeds as a film. Partly as a result of the cast, but mainly as a result of the visuals, DOCTOR STRANGE is just strange enough to justify itself as a new entry to the superhero pantheon…