Doctor Strange: Visually appealing yet an impressively-strange Marvel movie

Wafiur Rahman
Thursday, November 3rd, 2016


Of all the Marvel movies released of late, it is shocking to even comprehend that the recent ‘Doctor Strange’ would be the most coherent, classily cast (thanks to Benedict Cumberbatch casted as the titular Dr Stephen Strange) and visually jaw-dropping. Very magical in aesthetics and a distinctive nod to Christopher Nolan’s ‘Inception’, the movie can aptly be considered as ‘psychedelic cinema’ at its recent best.


Summoning the full power of his charismatic arrogance, Cumberbatch plays Stephen Strange, a world-famous neurosurgeon who loses his livelihood in a car accident. (His hands, afflicted with irreparable nerve damage, become even shakier than his American accent.) Out of surgical solutions, Strange desperately turns to alternative medicine, flying to Kathmandu to consult with The Ancient One (a bald, calm Tilda Swinton), leader of a cabal of super-powered, dimension-hopping monks.


Thanks to his goatee, colossal ego, and barrage of referential humor, Strange is basically Tony Stark in a magic cape. But whereas Iron Man built a world around Robert Downey Jr.’s snarky star performance, Doctor Strange uses its own sardonic hero as more of a comical counterpoint. That’s smart, because there’s a lot of mumbo jumbo in this movie, which adds New Age mysticism to a cross-franchise universe already accommodating mad science, intergalactic empires, and ancient space gods. Besides their ability to reshape the physical properties of the world, Strange’s new teammates can also pull glowing weapons out of thin air (it’s a bit like starting an engine), leap out of their bodies into their “astro” form, teleport across oceans, do battle in an invisible “mirror dimension,” and even roll back time itself.


Director Scott Derrickson, who also co-wrote the film, effortlessly negotiates the leap from quality horror pictures (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister) to this daringly weird superhero movie. There’s a sharp wit to the screenplay, which credits the audience with enough smarts to catch the punchline to a joke that was set up a full hour before. But Derrickson’s greatest achievement is incorporating so much cosmic elements into the story – astral planes, third eyes and mandalas abound – without ever seeming like a stoner’s motivational bedroom poster.


Swinton is typically excellent as Strange’s mentor in the arts of magic. An unworldly Zen teacher with a touch of very earthly cruelty, there’s authority to her screen presence that gives weight to Strange’s spiritual journey. Strong support from Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo and Benedict Wong as Wong brings heart and wry humour to the story. Meanwhile, Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen is somewhat underused as Kaecilius, a renegade former disciple.




The solidity of the performances is a necessary anchor as we plunge into the mind-bending layers of trippy visuals

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