Dr Strange is the latest addition to the ever growing Marvel universe, giving the talented Benedict Cumberbatch a chance to, for once, step into a hero’s shoes. That’s right folks! The voice of Smaug and the face of Khan has reached mainstream protagonist heights at last! But can an actor, so apt at portraying villains make us fall in love with his smile and wit rather than his grim, mean stare?
Dr Strange certainly tries, but can’t help showing the dear doctor first as an egocentric and cold person. Only a harsh fall from grace begins to thaw the frozen heart when Strange breaks the hands which made him famous. The once all-powerful surgeon must now resign himself to merely being a super-genius, poor guy. Ever stubborn, he goes east looking for a cure, but instead finds magic, and a cult of sorcerers protecting Earth from a malicious interdimensional being.
Dr Strange is by all means a valuable offering to the hungering masses waiting for another helping of Marvel-mash. Or maybe not. Amid all the sequels and tie-ins, Dr Strange emerges as an independent movie! You don’t even have to go see the 13(!!) other films in the Marvel series to enjoy this one. Dr Strange happily coexists with the Avengers and others without having to reference and “callback” constantly. Instead, it is allowed its own time in the sun, to do magic kung fu and beat on Mads Mikkelsen.
Cumberbatch bears the cowl strongly, but never really becomes all that likeable. He is too good at too much, and worst of all he is almost always right. The know-it-all act gets old fast, and Dr Strange is at its best when its lead is the butt of the joke, it’s a good thing we have a villain with a sense of humour. The writing is good all over, and we quickly accept the new world of mirror dimensions and “portal rings”. What really shines though is the overwhelming special effects effort in the film. The filmmakers have obviously watched Inception a lot, and fallen in love with the art of “magic city planning”. Many fight scenes take place in contracting and twisting cities or building, where the concept of gravity and matter obey every order of the sorcerer in charge. It is all very impressive, and visually daunting, the sheer imagination to think all this up! It leaves you feeling like you’re watching a real life magic performance, including all the “How’d he?”, “What the?”, and “Wow!” ‘s that you might expect. I can’t possibly do justice to the innovative tricks and stunts that are put in the mix here, you really will just have to go see it for yourself. The chaotic nature of these “cityshaping-scenes”, however in parts get increasingly confusing to watch. Stunt people run on walls, fly and fight, while the camera skips, cuts and clips rapidly. Perhaps this is the point of all the building-puzzling, but it could be toned down a bit, so as not to just become picture soup.
The action in Dr Strange moves quick and the plot advances via all the staples of the Marvel recipe. As a result, it all works, especially when the director indulges in a bit of comedy, even with the world at risk. The conclusion is especially satisfying, and Cumberbatch manages to win us over once he reaches his final form as another watcher on the wall of our world. In the end Dr Strange is one of the stronger Marvel films, and one that you can go watch without necessarily being an expert on all things Marvel.
So kick off your shoes, and grab the popcorn! Doctor Strange has landed.
by Frederik Hartmann