This latest addition to the Marvel comics’ cinematic canon is a handsome looking beast, which benefits from a classy, largely British cast in the main roles and really stunning special effects.
Doctor Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) is a top rank neuro-surgeon and cocky with it. But after a horrific car accident (very well staged incidentally) he loses the use of his hands. When conventional medicine cannot help, he travels the world in search of a cure, eventually ending up in Katmandu, where he encounters the The Ancient One (Swinton) and her number one man and apprentice Mordo (Ejiofor). Together they train Strange in their mystic arts and enlist him in the battle against the evil Kaecilius (Mikkelson), who wants to destroy our world, hand it over to some other evil entity and gain eternal life for himself.
The involved plot takes in scientific theories about multiple universes, the concept of astral bodies, which can do battle outside their earthly ones, time travel, the art of sorcery and whole lot of other stuff which may or may not all be a load of old cobblers but which the film makes convincing for us while it is on screen.
What helps to create that sense of conviction is the cast. Cumberbatch brings an impressive, classically trained presence to the role and tackles the action scenes with gusto and humour. He appears to be attempting an American accent in the early scenes but abandons that fairly quickly. In fact with so many Brits on the job, for once the actors’ diction is clear as a bell. You can pretty much hear every word.
Ejiofor lends solid support, Mikkelson tackles the villain’s role with gusto and Wong does a comic genius turn as the po-faced librarian of mystic books. Swinton as The Ancient One is though the other star of the show. Bald as an egg with flashing eyes and total assurance, she dominates every scene she is in. With the help of those special effects, she also does some pretty cool action turns. Which brings me to another mention of those effects, which are innovatively spectacular, particularly the way solid buildings turn into fluidly moving battle grounds, the battles themselves and Strange’s final encounter with the ultimate evil being. Plus a special mention for Strange’s very active signature red cloak.
The only disappointment is the talented Rachel McAdams role as Strange’s friend and fellow doctor Christine, who really doesn’t have a lot to do and what she does have doesn’t include her in the main fun and games. But maybe she’ll have a better role in the next Doctor Strange movie. Because there is one planned. Don’t leave before the last credit has rolled. Then you will get a taster of things to come.
Review by Carol Allen