Sunday, 30 October 2016

#73 & 74 DOCTOR STRANGE



Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt and Scott Adkins. Written by Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill. Directed by Scott Derrickson. Based on the character created by Steve Ditko. Budget $165 million. Running time 115 minutes. Certificate 12A.

Doctor Strange marks Marvel's 14th cinematic release, as well as this year's seventh super-hero movie and the third to feature Marvel characters. It's arrival brings magic and multi-dimensions to the already rapidly expanding Marvel universe but the question is, does this over egg the pudding or bring a whole other dimension of wonderment to the proceedings?

The plot sees genius, but arrogant, brain surgeon, Dr. Strange (Bendydick Cucumberpatch) survive a violent car crash that destroys his hands and thus his career leaving our driven doctor to embark on a quest to restore his genius. Along the way he stumbles across the legend of Kamar-Taj and heads off to Kathmandu in Nepal to find a cure. There he meets the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and is enrolled into a school of witchcraft and wizardry where he rediscovers his mojo, learns kung fu and discovers alternative dimensions, so far so typical for an origin story. But what about the threat, where's our supervillain (because every superhero movie needs one of those)?

Well fret not, true believers, cos coming round the corner of a folding skyscrapper is...

Medium sized villain, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), a one-time disciple of the Ancient One who has been seduced by the dark side offered by huge baddy, Dormammu and stolen pages from an exceedingly old spell book belonging to the Ancient One and is determined to unleash a huge spinning vortex of doom on the world, so far so every other super hero movie. After that, the film follows the traditional template of superhero films by giving us the training montague, the suiting up scene, the self doubt and self discovery sequence followed by the 'end of the 2nd arc' dilemma before we're rocking towards the ubiquitous big Earth shattering slap down between Strange, Kaecilius and Dormammu before the credits and the mid and post credit sequences and The End.

And that's Dr. Strange. The wackiest Marvel movie since Guardians of the Galaxy. The cast is terrific and Carrotpatch brings a quipping, ironic twinkle to the proceedings. He's helped in no short measure by the most surprising, non-speaking sidekick you've ever seen, but I don't wish to spoil who or what it is. Let's just say 'he' gets all the best line(ing)s!

As always with these things, the casting is superb and extremely good actors and actresses elevate the nonsense to a higher level (perhaps Marvel's best secret). The script is funny and entertaining, giving us some emotional depth and drama as well as slam-bang action. The special effects are truly special and there's a superb sequence, glimpsed in the trailer, that's almost vertigo inducing, it's most certainly dazzling as buildings fold in on themselves like machines. Although the best sequence sees Strange defending a Sanctum from a full-out magical attack all on his own!

However, all is not perfect in the garden of Dr. Strange. The 3D makes this a murky, dark and gloomy spectacle and after the initial delight of it soon loses its thrill. The villains ultimately just want to destroy the world and it's frankly becoming boring, although Dr. Strange actually has something different up its sleeve by ways of dealing with it. But the biggest problem I  have with this film is with the change in the Marvel Universe Logo at the beginning of the film. It's been changed from the flickering images of artwork taken from the original Marvel comics for footage from the Marvel movies and that really grates with me. It feels as if Marvel is betraying its comic roots.

Overall, this is a fun romp of a movie, one of Marvel's lightest in touch and tone and that's fine in my book. Apart from the generic baddie's motivation and the now almost ubiquitous spinning vortex of doom threat this is another example of how superhero movies should be made.

It's pleasing to say that Marvel's strangest film to date has managed to pulled off a neat trick by passing its medical with flying colours.

8/10

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