Many early reviews of Doctor Strange have cited how much of a different experience – both tonally and visually – the film is in relation to its MCU counterparts. I would go further than that. I would say Doctor Strange stands apart from every other film full-stop.
Director Scott Derrickson (Sinister, Exorcism of Emily Rose) has delivered a psychedelic visual sensation unlike anything seen on the silver screen. There are sequences in this film that defy all logic and smash your brain apart with their ceaseless invention and beguiling originality. The high bar comment on any comic book movie is how well it compares to the original drawn panels. If that’s the case then Derrickson and team deserve the greatest of praise for being able to authentically bring to life Steve Ditko’s mind-bending Strange worlds and realms.
In terms of the story itself, this is an origin tale. Perhaps this is the only thing that holds it back a little. It’s not that Doctor Strange’s origin is dull, it’s just that it hits many of the same story beats as its Marvel predecessors (because it needs to) and so there are some moments which will make seasoned fans feel like they are waiting for the story to progress whilst working through the necessary world-building exposition.
But this is a minor qualm, especially when the actors giving life to this story are of the kind of calibre any filmmaker would dream to have on board. Benedict Cumberbatch is full of charisma and pathos as the once-so-mighty neurosurgeon turned useless hobo; Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Mordo – the right hand man of The Ancient One – with total sincerity and dramatic aplomb, and Tilda Swinton…well…she’s Tilda Swinton. Playing The Ancient One she is ethereal, majestic, otherworldly; there aren’t enough superlatives to describe how great she is. There’s also a great surprise in the form of Benedict Wong, who plays a librarian/guard called Wong, and is a fantastic deadpan comedy foil offering some great levity to proceedings.
The visuals would be nothing without the performances (including a wonderfully intimidating villainous turn by Mads Mikkelsen) but because of these performances the visuals truly shine. This is a film that your eyes will thank you for. It is the only film since Gravity that deserves to be seen in 3D and on an IMAX screen if you can get to one.
Doctor Strange is THE visual feast of 2016. You’ll travel through time, space and countless realms of the multiverse as you marvel (pun intended) at the majesty of the ever expanding possibilities in the MCU. I can’t wait to see what comes next.