Doctor Strange
Director: Scott Derrickson
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams
Duration: 115 mins
Class: 12
KRS Releasing Ltd

Marvel’s Doctor Strange introduces a new character to the Marvel Cinematic Universe – well, new to the big screen, given he has been around since his first appearance in a comic in 1963.

As portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch, Dr Steven Strange is an exceptionally-gifted neurosurgeon whose brilliant career is cut short after a horrific traffic accident (in one of the best warnings about the dangers of texting while driving ever depicted on screen).

Desperate, depressed and having attempted everything possible to regain the use of his hands, Strange seeks solace in a healing centre called Kamar-Taj in Kathmandu, led by the wise and mysterious Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). She recognises in Strange the abilities needed to lead the battle against threatening dark forces bent on destroying our reality, and takes him on as a student – but is Strange ready to leave his life of privilege behind and take up the battle of good vs evil?

Doctor Strange is a superb origin story that tackles the fine line between science and magic while taking the viewer to mind-altering alternate realities and parallel dimensions with its plethora of astonishing special effects as it tells its tale swathed in mysticism.

It is a uniformly excellent cast with heavy-weights Cumberbatch and Swinton given able support by Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo, an apprentice of The Ancient One who becomes a mentor and friend to Strange.

Another example of Marvel’s penchant for blending solid storytelling, excellent characterisation, great dialogue and humour with action and adventure

There is Mads Mikkelsen as former student Kaecilius, who turns to the dark side and is determined to destroy our reality as we know it. While the character threatens to fall into panto villainy on occasion, the Danish actor avoids the trap with aplomb.

It is a list of actors all better-known for their dramatic turns, but they all bring a lightness of touch and playfulness to their roles making the film all the more enjoyable and engaging for it.

It is a breeze for Cumberbatch to portray the stubborn, arrogant and ambitious doctor. But he is equally at ease as the man compelled to relearn all that he knows in seeking to become a sorcerer. He reveals a hilarious way with a killer line – a running gag with Benedict Wong’s super-solemn keeper and protector of the vast Kamar-Taj library of sacred books is priceless. Never has Beyoncé been used to such hilarious effect.

Swinton is equally superb – charismatic, wise, inspirational, the perfect choice for an otherworldly character. Yet, she too displays consummate ease with a droll line or five.

Rachel McAdams brings things back to the realm of normality as Dr Christine Palmer, a colleague, friend and close confidante of Strange’s. She, too, gets a memorable scene involving her reaction to finding out where he’s been all this time since his apparent disappearance. Special mention must go to Strange’s Cloak of Levitation which appears to have a mind of its own and is pretty much a character in its own right.

It is another example of Marvel’s penchant for blending solid storytelling, excellent characterisation, great dialogue and humour with action and adventure, and director Scott Derrickson and the team behind the special effects handles all this very proficiently.

If you were blown away by the amazing sight of roads shifting upwards and huge buildings folding over themselves in the dreamscapes in the movie Inception, the visuals in Doctor Strange will have you looking for your jaw on the floor as streets in New York, London and Hong Kong transmogrify into the template of a dizzying and hyper-kinetic game of parkour as the protagonists battle each other to the death. Moreover, as the story takes us to its alternative realms we are treated to a number of scenes of apocalyptic beauty, illustrated by explosions of colour and light.

It is a stunning, stimulating and utterly satisfying introduction to the character as Marvel continue to push the envelope in action adventure entertainment, constantly creating something fresh and exciting with every step the studio takes in its universe.