Something Strange is afoot

by Gazette Reporter
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ANOTHER Marvel Cinematic Universe release, another review that comments on the studio’s well-worn cinematic formula.
Doctor Strange (Cert 12A, 115 mins), like all the MCU instalments before it, is fraught with the familiar beats, upbeat tone and signature brand of humour we’ve come to expect from Marvel.
While the studio’s “if it ain’t broke” approach has been steadily growing a little tired, Doctor Strange pushes the formula forward with a hallucinatory, mind-bending blend of action and aesthetic unlike anything we’ve experienced on the big screen.
From the film’s earliest trailers, many have picked up on elements on Inception – indeed, its impossible to miss its visual influence here.
However, Doctor Strange builds on the architecture-bending aesthetic of Christopher Nolan’s 2010 sci-fi film, incorporating action in such a way that will have audiences twisting their bodies into obtuse shapes to follow the flow of movement.
This time around, Disney and Marvel have put their faith in Sinister director Scott Derrickson and assembled an unlikely, but brilliant, group of actors.
This may not be Marvel’s most high-profile cast, but it’s certainly their most highbrow, featuring Oscar nominees Benedict Cumberbatch and Chiwetel Ejiofar, and Oscar winner Tilda Swinton.
As an origin story, Doctor Strange echoes the studio’s trendsetting first feature, Iron Man, depicting a witty, arrogant genius who, after being struck by tragedy, learns the errors of his imperious ways – as well as gaining a few superpowers, naturally.
Cumberbatch plays Dr Stephen Strange; a brilliant surgeon whose life is drastically changed when a car crash horribly mangles his hands. When western medicine fails him, Strange travels east in search of a mysterious cure.
Along with the mystical secret to his recovery, Strange encounters an otherworldly battle with dark forces and must decide whether to return to his former life, or join Mordo (Ejiofar) and the Ancient One (Swinton) in saving the world from another case of imminent destruction.
Like Marvel’s other origin narratives, the story here is somewhat overshadowed by setup. However, the leap from fact to fantasy in Doctor Strange is sudden and swift – in typical Marvel style, the narrative doesn’t get bogged down in realism and grit.
The studio trusts us to suspend our disbelief when watching a superhero movie (unlike a certain other cinematic superhero universe), and Doctor Strange is all the more enjoyable for it.
It’s odd that this cast, perhaps the most respected to grace the MCU, should appear in its most fantastical instalment.
Doctor Strange goes above and beyond the multi-dimensional fantasy of Thor, and everyone involved seems to be having a fantastic time with the out-there material.
The beats may be familiar at this stage, but with that comes an expertly paced narrative replete with wonderfully dynamic action sequences and plenty of well-placed, punctuating moments of drama.
If it wasn’t for the genuinely innovative aesthetic and FX-driven fight scenes, maybe Doctor Strange would stick a little too close to the borderline hackneyed formula – thankfully, we don’t have to worry about that.
Doctor Strange is the most visually innovative superhero movie yet, and perhaps the only one to genuinely benefit from a 3D-viewing.
Regrettably, Mads Mikkelson’s villain is a little underwhelming – with all the talk of “infinite multiverses” and “infinite dangers”, what’s really at stake in Doctor Strange often gets a little lost in the flood.
The trick here is to lose yourself with it and let the mind-boggling blend of action and aesthetic sweep you away.

Verdict: 8/10

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