Film review: DR. STRANGE, from ‘Built for Speed’

Apparently determined to bring us a cinema incarnation of every character that has ever graced their pages, Marvel Comics now present Dr Strange. The good doctor is one of the lesser known Marvel heroes – at least for the average cinema goer – but as his powers are based on manipulation of the metaphysical world rather than brute strength, he’s one of the more intriguing.

Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Dr Steven Strange, a talented and extremely arrogant neurosurgeon who has more than a touch of Hugh Laurie’s Dr House about him. Seemingly spiritually empty he immerses himself in expensive material possessions and often callously disregarding needy patients, he only takes on high profile cases that will bring him fame.   Arrogant professionals generally become the victims of cinematic karma and here the doctor is almost killed in a horrific car crash that seriously damages his hands and destroys his surgical skills. When conventional medicine fails him, he seeks out a mysterious Katmandu cult that had apparently healed a paraplegic (Benjamin Bratt). There, a bald-headed white female cult leader comically known as The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) leads him on a path to enlightenment although Strange is more interested in their martial arts skills and superhuman spiritual powers that allow the cult’s masters to manipulate matter and even time. His ascent through the spiritual warrior ranks see him inevitably confront fallen master Kaecilius (Mads Mikelsen) who, guess what, wants to destroy humanity.

Above all else this film is a special effects extravaganza with scenes of the doctor traversing other worldly dimensions that look like Inception on LSD and elephant steroids and also recall the famous trippy ‘star gate’ sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey. These gratuitous CGI indulgences are fun at first but like the Mortal Kombat style kung fu sequences that also dot this film, become a little tedious by the about the 10th acid trip. There’s also a wicked case of piss weak monster with a so-called all-powerful alien god proving about as useful in combat Sgt Schultz from Hogan’s Heroes.

As Dr Strange, Mr Cumberbatch provides a more cerebral and less likeable hero than we usually find in these Marvel adaptations. I’m sure there’ll be more spiritual redemption for him further down the track but at this stage he’s mostly obnoxious. Tilda Swinton has the right amount of wisdom and creepiness as The Ancient One while Chiwetel Ejiofor delivers a typically strong performance as Strange’s no-nonsense martial arts trainer.

Those who can endure special effects indulgence will love this film but others will hit a wall about half way through.

Nick’s rating: ***.

Genre: Super hero/ action.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Scott Derrickson.

Release date: 27th Oct 2016.

Running time: 115 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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