12A – 115mins – 2016 – 3D
THE DOORS OF PERCEPTION
“Leave behind everything you thought you knew…”
A career-ending car accident sees astonishing-but-arrogant New York neurosurgeon Stephen Strange (Benedict Black Mass Cumberbatch) traverse the globe in search of revolutionary and non-traditional healing techniques to cure his damaged hands. In Kathmandu, Nepal he is introduced to The Ancient One (Tilda Trainwreck Swinton), a master of the mystic arts who harnesses the desperate doctor’s spiritual powers to unleash his full potential.
Teleportation, astral projection, mirror realms, dark dimensions, temporal displacement and electrical energy weapons summoned out of thin air, Doctor Strange is not your average Avenger, and this freshness elevates this fourteenth Marvel Comic Universe adventure all the higher in my estimations. While Iron Man, Captain America et al save Earth from physical invaders (or fight amongst themselves), the warriors of Kamak-Taj protect us from spiritual superheroes gone rogue.
Enter Kaecillus (Mads Mikkelsen), a former “broken” pupil of The Ancient One who breaks off from the sect in order to summon an interstellar entity known as Dormammu and excel by feeding off of his dark power – something which The Ancient One strictly forbids… or does she?
I was utterly compelled by the strong character complexity on show here – no-one is simply black or white in their motives, morals or agendas. Stephen is undeniably brilliant, a pioneer in his field, but such an “arrogant ass” he’s hard to get along with (remind you of anyone, Sherlock fans?), while Kaecillus presents such a sturdy argument in favour of his controversial point of view that it’s hard to call this antagonist out-and-out evil – even if he has no problem with a bit of beheading to get what he wants!
With a mystic war raging to protect Earth’s three sanctums (New York, London, Hong Kong) it could be claimed that much like this summer’s supervillain team-up Suicide Squad, Doctor Strange leaps straight from introduction (right up to the moment the Cloak of Levitation attaches itself around Stephen’s neck) to climatic end-of-the-world action set piece(s). Yet, where DC’s critical bomb felt choppy in tone and sloppily edited, Doctor Strange plays out smoothly and fluidly like a dream – albeit a psychedelic dream heavily influenced by Inception, The Matrix and LSD trips!
Extravagant, spectacular and downright fun, I’m bewildered to read a number of middling, three star reviews for director Scott Sinister Derrickson’s Marvel debut. In my opinion, Doctor Strange is bold, beautiful and best viewed on the big screen. My biggest criticism? That Michael Giacchino’s orchestral score occasionally veered too close to his Star Trek suites that I was momentarily pulled out of the action by a clawing sense of déjà vu.
CR@B’s Claw Score: