Adapted from the comic book of the same name, Doctor Strange (dir. Scott Derrickson) is an entertaining classic super hero story with a Marvel touch and surreal visual effects.
It all starts with the smart and arrogant Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) – a renowned neurosurgeon. While driving, he receives the X-ray of a possible patient and loses control of the wheel (remember don’t do other things while driving!). Ironically, his hands are severe damaged, which makes him lose all mobility in his hands. He can barely write his name on a paper. Desperate, he looks for hope – a miracle that can help him become doctor Strange again. This leads him to Kathmandu, Nepal, where he looks for Kamar-Taj. Here, he meets the Ancient One who teaches him how to control his mind and body, making him capable of creating portals, control time, and other spells. Strange also learns that there are several dimensions. In one of these dimensions, there is evil, and this evil is trying to conquer Earth. Therefore, Doctor Strange and the other sorcerers have to protect the Sanctums (three places where a spell protects Earth from evil). The villain Kaecilius (played by Mads Mikkelsen) seeks eternal life in the Dark Dimension. He tries to break the spell and surrender Earth to Dormammu of the Dark Dimension. The confrontation between Doctor Strange and Kaecilius results in surreal battlefields that can be considered a mix of Inception (2010) to the triple power and The Avengers (2012, 2015). These amazing visual effects will leave you astounded (if you let yourself immerse in the 3D!). In this evil VS good fight – in which you already can guess the winner – Stranger surprises his mentors and enemy by defeating Kaecilius in a clever way.
This film uses the characteristic Marvel humour that can be found in, for example, Iron Man (2008, 2010), The Avengers, Thor (2011, 2013), and almost all the latest Marvel filmic adaptations. It is the main character’s arrogance combined with sarcasm that bring charm to the successful Marvel films. Apparently, according to Marvel, being arrogant, clever, ambitious, stubborn, and, most importantly, having a good heart are the qualities required on a present day superhero.
Furthermore, Doctor Strange teaches us what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’ in a person, and it also attempts to show us a potential alternative way. Doctor Strange depicts the notion that working hard is good, but it is not the only option that can fulfill a person’s life. Stephen Strange who was once consumed by his successful career, finds a divergent path in the spiritual world that leads him to a new purpose: to fight evil.
In the same steps of seeking a different path, the love interest of Doctor Strange plays a small role in it. Christine Palmer (played by Rachel McAdams) tries to convince Strange that there diverse ways to find happiness, but he refuses to listen. This is a sub-story in which the love interest, who is also a doctor, helps Strange when he is injured.
The film was accused of ‘whitewashing’ the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton, read her explanation here). This controversy emerged when the trailer was released. However, this did not stop the film from obtaining an estimated amount of 84, 9 million dollar (approx. 77 million Euro) in the opening weekend. Swinton’s character, nonetheless, is well portrayed – lacking background story and how and why the Ancient One was there, which provides many alternatives for who this character might be. Swinton presents a credible character that hides something from the spectator. Moreover, Scott Derrickson, the director wanted diversity in the casting and tried to avoid falling into stereotypes. He did not fall into the category of stereotyping, but he could have easily chosen a Latina or African American instead of a white actress to play the Ancient One, as these are also minorities that have less screen representation than the former.
In short, the story is charming, entertaining, and spectacular! Nevertheless, it could have used more depth on the backstory of the dimensions, how do they exist, the different portals, etc. Perhaps more will be revealed in the sequel, as at the end of the film, there are two post-credits scenes that give us a hint of a possible Doctor Strange 2 – which I am looking forward too!
PS: Try to spot Stan Lee (comic book writer and former chairman of Marvel), he does a short cameo à la Hitchcock!
Cover image: Screenshot Doctor Strange – Discovering new powers.