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TAC Reviews...Doctor Strange


The fourteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr Stephen Strange. Doctor Strange also co stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen, and Tilda Swinton. The film focuses on the Mystic Arts and although the Avengers are mentioned none of them feature (with the exception of a great cameo in the mid-credits scene) but this film is definitely part of the established Cinematic Universe.


Doctor Strange Poster


So, let me get the obvious stuff out of the way first, Benedict Cumberbatch…big fan…he made himself into a massive star with his portrayal of Holmes in Sherlock and since then in my opinion he has gone from strength to strength. He was the best thing in Star Trek Into Darkness and has shown that he is a very diverse actor taking on both serious and less serious roles but he always shines in whatever he is doing. Naturally he is just as good here as he has been in the past, so I’m not going to dwell on his portrayal too much, the thing is what I need to do though is first bring you up to speed on the origins of the Sorcerer Supreme…


We start off in Nepal, with a powerful sorcerer named Kaecilius (Mikkelsen) entering a secret compound, Kamar-Taj, and murdering the librarian. He and his followers steal a ritual from a book belonging to the Ancient One (Swinton) who has taught Kaecilius and all others in Kamar-Taj the mystic arts. The Ancient One has lived for an unknown amount of time, she is extremely powerful and whilst she pursues the intruders they are able to escape.


Then we cut to Doctor Stephen Strange who is a brilliant, rich and arrogant neurosurgeon, his skill is in his hands, but that skill is taken from him during a car accident. He survives the smash but all-but looses the ability to use his hands, thus ending his career. Despite help from his former lover and colleague Christine Palmer, Strange starts to succumb to depression and becomes estranged from everyone around him. Unable to move on with his life Strange plunges his fortune into various surgeries to try and regain the full use of his hands, but none succeed. During a session of physiotherapy his therapist tells him that a former patient named Jonathan Pangborn, a paraplegic, miraculously regained his ability to walk, initially sceptical Strange sees the medical data and then tracks the man down. Sure enough Pangborn is completely mobile when he shouldn’t be, and he tells Strange about Kamar-Taj where he healed from his injuries.


Using the last of his money Strange manages to locate Kamar-Taj where he meets Mordo (Ejiofor) and is able to convince the Ancient One to teach him the mystic arts. As he starts to use the magic techniques he didn’t know existed he discovers that whilst the Avengers protect the world from physical threats, the Ancient One known as the Sorcerer Supreme and her followers protect the world from mystical threats.


Kaecilius as his followers want to open up the human world to the Dark Dimension when the powerful entity Dormammu rules a place without time where all can live forever. As Strange becomes more powerful he starts to realise that he is now part of a much bigger world and may be forced to fight in a war that he doesn’t want to be a part of. He even kills one of Kaecilius’ followers in self-defence and considers turning his back on the Ancient One’s teachings because he became a doctor to save lives, not to take them…


I know that I have talked about this a number of times but I was really into the Spider-Man Animated Series a few years ago and as such I had encountered a huge amount of Marvel characters who’d cameo in that show. One of those was Dr Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme, who helped Spider-Man rescue Mary Jane from a cult being controlled by Baron Mordo. This was both a good and a bad thing because in the show Doctor Strange was very powerful and obviously a Master of the Mystic Arts, it also introduced Dormammu, a very powerful entity that was looking to invade our world and enslave mankind. The bad thing about that is that in the episode Mordo was a bad guy, in Doctor Strange he is a good guy, however as the film progresses he starts to question whether following the Ancient One’s path is the right one for him.


For the majority of the film Kaecilius is the main enemy and it has to be said that Mikkelsen does make a good villain, and what makes him more interesting is the fact that the reason he is serving Dormammu is because he believes that within the Dark Dimension when time does not exist, humans would be immortal. Villains and heroes that are not black and white are always far more interesting because when you deal with shades of grey, the line between hero and villain is a lot more blurred. What makes things a little more complicated is the fact that several of the “good” guys in this film are using the Mystic Arts for their own selfish reasons, hell, Doctor Strange himself is only there because he wants to regain the full use of his hands in order to resume his former life as a wealthy neurosurgeon. He doesn’t care about the battle going on between Kaecilius and the Ancient One, and views himself as a healer not a soldier.


As I said Benedict Cumberbatch is superb in this role, and he is also being supported exceptionally well by Swinton and Ejiofor. The three have an interesting opponent to go up against, and thankfully there is still some humour running through the film. The actors are all clearly enjoying themselves here and the sentient Cloak of Levitation also manages to steal a few scenes. In the story the relics choose the sorcerers (much like in Harry Potter how the wands chose the wizards…hmmm…could the Doctor Strange comics have been where J.K Rowling got the inspiration for that particular idea??…Maybe) and the cape is apparently a quintessential part of who he is. The music score that plays over the scene where he gets the cape certainly suggests that this is something that was meant to happen and there is no doubt it looks insanely cool.


The special effects are top notch and the action is well choreographed. There is a mirror dimension and those within cannot affect the real world, this means that buildings and entire cities can be twisted and reformed without affecting one else. The seamless blend between the effects and the action give the illusion that these sorcerers really can manipulate the world around them easily.


Another Infinity Stone appears to add to the list of Infinity Stones that have appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If you’re keeping track we’ve now seen the Tesseract, the Aether, the one from Guardians of the Galaxy, the stone in Vision’s forehead, and now this one. In one of the post-credits scenes we saw Thanos (the big purple dude) picking up a glove, that is the Infinity Gauntlet, and is naturally going to feature heavily in the upcoming Infinity Wars films.


Doctor Strange is another great addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and once again serves to show up the DC Extended Universe, I really wish DC would look at what Marvel has done and put a bit more time into their own movies. I really enjoyed this film and there are a couple of bits that follow during and after the credits, one major link to the Avengers movies, with a teaser for the plot of another Doctor Strange film after the credits. Naturally as I have done nothing but sing this film’s praises since I started writing it is getting a well-deserved Thumbs Up, if you’re a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe you’ll probably have already seen it, but with a bit of luck the people behind the DC films will be taking a few notes on how to make a great film too.



8/10 – Another solid step forward for the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a fantastic cast, great special effects and yet another hugely powerful Infinity Stone that Thanos is undoubtedly going to want to get his hands on.


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© Chris Sharman