If a man has cheekbones like that, it is enough of a superpower. But Benedict Cumberbatch’s Stephen Strange, sorry Dr Stephen Strange with emphasis on the doctor, is not the one to be satisfied with what he has. In comes mystic superpowers, turning him into sort of a Tony Stark with spells but with a wit and intensity that only the actor can muster. So he has the gift of witty repartee, is a genius, has a giant ego and can save the world. He also has a crimson cape which is in love with his cheekbones. Sigh!
But Cumberbatch is not the only reason why you are here, are you? You are here because you want to know in the Marvel universe, where does the new superhero stack up? So here it goes: Take Batman Begins, put it on steroids, mix Iron Man’s smarts and you are ready to enter the psychedelic stun-fest that is Dr Strange. It is funny, it is smart, it has enough of multiverses and astral bodies to give it depth but, most important, it is knock-your-socks-off impressive.
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Marvel believes in giving us five special effects where one will suffice but with Dr Strange, the studio seems to have embraced the subject’s outre source and given it a brilliant Kaleidoscopic treatment. As cities fold upon themselves, reality shatters like mirror only to come together again and characters vanish into a space-time vortex through flaming circles. In fact, you forget you are watching a Marvel movie and there are moments when you feel as if Christopher Nolan is trying to out-Inception himself. If you are watching this in IMAX, it may just be the best experience you will have in a long, long time.
And then there is the cast, how can you take Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdamas and Mads Mikkelsen and not make a film that absolutely sings? Short answer: You can’t. There has been a lot of talk about how Strange’s teacher, the Ancient One, should have been an Asian man and not a Celtic woman. It seems what the film lost in white-washing, it gained in gender parity. And then, Swinton is so other-worldly that it is a shame to put her in any brackets.
The only grouse I have with the film is how it wastes Mads and Rachel. Marvel has always had an issue with its one-note villains (think of anybody other than Loki) and the problem persists. In fact, we hear Mads had passed the chance to play a one-dimensional villain in Thor: The Dark World to do precisely that in Doctor Strange. Rachel, meanwhile, is a general ‘hey you’ for Strange every time he or anyone else needs medical attention. The female leads is another one that Marvel simply can’t wrap their heads around.
In the meanwhile, you fat suits at Marvel, stand up and take a bow. After giving us film after film with the same formula, you have stepped into a new realm and conjured magic.