Riddle Me This – what happens when a horror movie director (Scott Derrickson), a writer of both Prometheus and Passengers (Jon Spaihts) and a film critic-turned script writer (C. Robert Cargill), take 2 well received Christopher Nolan projects and The Matrix, fill it with Brits, Canadians, Europeans, 2 Americans and a Buddhist and Big City coat of paint, and then slam it all together like an end-of-the-world prediction?
Set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, our story revolves around Stephen Strange – a highly acclaimed Surgeon who would give the manga character Black Jack (The Surgeon with the hands of God) a run for his money. He’s highly successful to the point of riches, and much like Tony Stark, he drives a nice car, has a nice home, and thinks very highly of himself…Then the car accident happened. Stephen survives, but is left with intense nerve damage in his hands and effectively ending the career of a man who put everything into his job. Desperate, Stephen goes by a hearsay to Nepal after hearing of a man who should be in a wheelchair is walking about like nothing happened. Here he meets The Ancient One (played by Tilda Swinton), a Celtic mystic who teaches Stephen that there is more to the world around him, and himself, than meets the eye.
Now for the strange things about this film:
The Acting is great throughout the film, despite accusations of its casting. The Ancient One, who in the comics is an old Tibetian Monk, is played by a tall, middle-aged (and very young looking) white woman (Tilda Swindon), and this led to accusations that the film was being white-washed…Even though a Transylvanian character is played by a Nigerian-englishman (Chiwetel Ejiofor as Karl Mordo), a blonde-haired-blue-eyed doctor is played by a Jewish American (Michael Stuhlberg as Doctor Nicodemus West), the former paraplegic is played by an American or Peruvian and European descent (Benjamin Bratt as Jonathan Panghorn) and Chinese-British actor Benedict Wong plays Master Wong (Unsure if pun was intended). It’s hardly fair to call it a whitewashed cast. Everyone played their roles very well, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange is…perfect. Much like Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark, Cumberbatch has slotted himself perfectly into the role (and it makes me look forward to Stark and Strange meeting for the first time in Avengers 3). And of course you can’t forget the performances by Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer (Strange’s former lover, fellow surgeon and good friend), and the TV Doctor Hannibal Lecter himself, Mads Mikkelsen, plays antagonist and former student to The Ancient One, Kaecillus.
The Characters are very good, in particular Doctor Strange himself in the role of Neo and The Ancient One effectively in the role of Morpheus. Doctor Strange is a likeable but evidently flawed hero, both physically (his nerve-damaged hands) and mentally (his over-inflated ego), who realises what he is capable of, and goes after those trying to destroy the world through their own interpretation of a piece of script that The Ancient One had forbidden from them. What I also like most about Strange is the new dimension he will add to The Avengers by bringing Magic into what has been more or less associated with the sci-fi genre. An interesting twist.
The Story, much like Ant Man, Iron Man 1 and Guardians Of The Galaxy, is an origin story, and in itself can stand alone from the universe (But it’s more fun with the universe included). On its simplest form, it’s a very well made “Overcoming The Monster” story, and eventually it leads to what can be best described as the most original, awe-inspiring, and downright hilarious final battles in recent memory. No spoilers – just see it!
The Art Style evidently shows some influences and ideas from the likes of The Matrix and Inception, along with the Marvel Cinematic Universe presentation. The chosen locations were brilliantly presented and incorporated, and proves they either chose great locations to shoot or had excellent green screen effects.
The Music is by Michael Giacchino (New Star Trek Trilogy and numerous Pixar Films) and he does an awesome job for this. What makes this score stand out from the other Marvel movies is its use of the delightful instrument known as the Harpsichord (and early version of the piano). A lovely touch. While at the same time, providing very effective music for every high and low in the film. Subtle and memorable when it needs to be.
The CGI and Special Effects were…no pun intended – out of this world! It feels like the CGI in the MCU is getting better, and this is a definitive example of the trend.
The Cinematography, much like the special effects, are also a bit insane and ingenious at the same time.
Would I recommend Doctor Strange? Absolutely! It was great fun with a lot of humour, great action scenes and a very solid story with plenty to add upon. If you were hoping for a return in presenting The Matrix in some shape or form, whether it be in presentation or parallel narrative, you’ll find something to like here.
CGI/Special Effects: *****