Confident that he not only knows pretty much all there is to know, but that he is also the best neurosurgeon in his field, Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) finds his world shattered after a car accident leaves him with horribly damaged hands. In search of healing, Strange travels to Kathmandu to find The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), but the path to healing is not as straightforward as he thought, and Strange soon finds himself facing some truths about the world that he had never even considered.
The first new Marvel property to reach the big screen since Ant-Man, Doctor Strange is the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at address the ideas of magic and mysticism – which have been hinted at in the past – and it is the most exciting, fresh and weird addition to the MCU since Guardians of the Galaxy.
Benedict Cumberbatch leads the cast as Dr Stephen Strange, and does a good job at making the character arrogant to start off with, before he begins to learn humility. Cumberbatch’s American accent is a little ropey at times, but he brings a strength and vulnerability to the character that make him work, but he is not always the most interesting character on screen; that honour goes to Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One. For those of us who have been waiting to see Swinton take on a comic book role again after her role in Constantine, her turn as The Ancient One is exactly the treat that we hoped it would be. Swinton makes The Ancient One assured and vulnerable, confident and witty, and is a breath of fresh air that runs through the entire movie. Mads Mikkelsen takes on the role of Kaecilius and it is no surprise that he makes this villain menacing and a formidable foe. The rest of the cast features Chiwetel Ejifor, Rachel McAdams and Benedict Wong.
It seems that screenwriters Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill took a leaf out of the Guardians of the Galaxy book, and strove to bring something fresh, new and weird to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, an they have succeeded. Doctor Strange is not only witty and fast paced, but it is trippy and weird, like a cross between Inception and The Karate Kid, with some magic and mysticism thrown in for good measure. There is plenty to laugh at in Doctor Strange, but also a lot of fun to be had in terms of pacing and plotting. The world of The Avengers is the world that we – and the everyday folk of the movie – know inside and out, and Doctor Strange ups the ante in terms of story and giving the MCU a much-needed kick into high gear. The film is well paced and smart, with the action carefully balanced, and the formulaic feel of the movies that have gone before almost – almost – thrown out of the window for good.
As director Scott Derrickson embraces the inherent weird, trippy and exciting feel of Doctor Strange making the characters feel rounded and relatable, but the world feel off-kilter enough for audiences to get excited again. The look of the film is beautiful and strange, and psychadelic enough to tie into the end of Ant-Man, while also being a world and exploration of different dimensions in its own right.
In all, Doctor Strange is a wonderful treat; bonkers, weird and exciting, with characters we love – and love to hate – and a feeling that this truly is a part of the MCU that we have never seen before. The pacing is strong and the weird beauty of the film is a delight. Doctor Strange breathes a much-needed breath of fresh air into the Marvel world, and feels as new and exciting as Guardians of the Galaxy did two years ago.