Tripping Through Time
By Adam Sturrock
Dr Strange (2016)
Director: Scott Derrickson
Writer(s): Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen
Another Marvel film, another origin story. But horror director, Scott Derrickson’s take on the mystical world of comic book surgeon-turned- superhero, renders mostly all that came before it pretty bland.
Benedict Cumberbatch plays an acclaimed surgeon in New York called Stephen Strange. He relishes the prestige of being the best in his field, but his cockiness doesn’t exactly endear himself to his colleagues. His tastes in who he saves is just as selective as the clothes and cars that he owns; only the finest. After being humbled in an accident, however, he seeks out a shaven headed Ancient One (Swinton) and her disciples in order to tap into power that may restore his crippled hands. Along the way, he learns like many superheroes before him, that he can serve as a greater part in a bigger picture and that he may also have to face off against the twisted former student, Kaecillius (Mikkelsen) along the way.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t try to reinvent the Marvel narrative wheel, nor should I imagine that the studio would try to considering how successful this formula has worked in the past. Mostly every issue that pops up in Marvel’s films happens here – an ongoing issue with weak female love interests, villains that aren’t just an inversion of the protagonist, or the repetition of the typical story arc that appears in seemingly every film; dragging a cocky protagonist down a few rungs (Iron Man, Thor) and then hauling them back up to spectacularly battle an evil baddie in the third act. But it does twist and contort the world into psychedelic, kaleidoscopic shapes enough to make it seem an afterthought.
In some way, sticking to this formula is a safety net for film goers – no matter how the story is framed and whether the source material is recognised, there is always something comfortingly familiar in the bare bones. Obvious film references to The Matrix and Inception in how it looks and feels will also stand it in good stead.
Producer, Kevin Feige has again ensured narrative consistency while bringing in a hit list of exceptional actors, actresses and crew members; perhaps the best so far in terms of acting chops.
In future films, Benedict Cumberbatch will be an actor that will be hard to divorce from the character of Stephen Strange, in the same way that Robert Downey Jr is hard to not be associated with Tony Stark. In pre-production rumors, actors such as Joaquin Phoenix were linked to the role, but Cumberbatch takes total ownership of the character. Drawing a little from his role as Sherlock Holmes and injecting it with a dash of Gregory House, he swaggers through scenes, but possesses enough pliability to pull off emotionally charged moments and one-liners. There is a moment in the film in which he makes a corny joke about Beyonce which would usually cause people to cringe, but he sticks the delivery.
Watch this film on the biggest screen that you can find, let it wash over you and it won’t disappoint. With roughly an hour’s worth of IMAX footage shot for the film, it is designed to dazzle and amaze with some of the year’s best set pieces shown on screen. It is a shame that Dr Strange got shunted to the back end of the year over some lackluster Summer films, but trust me on this, the film isn’t an afterthought in terms of quality.
What are your thoughts on the film? Good/ bad? Let me know in the comment section below.
Just as a quick sidenote, I apologise for neglecting the blog for such a long time. I’ll try to get a rhythm in place for posting and I hope you can overlook the rust that has accumulated during this time.