by Jai Hutchison
Director: Scott Derrickson
Written by: C. Robert Cargill, Scott Derrickson and Jon Spaihts
Based on the Marvel comics by Steve Ditko
As a big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe I was always going to be quite excited for the release of ‘Dr. Strange’, despite never having delved into his comic book world. That however, quickly changed when I saw the trailer for ‘Dr. Strange’. This brief insight into the character’s inception just had me hooked and I had to know more right away. And so several comics were purchased the following day and I am now very much a fan of ‘Dr. Strange’. With the trailer itself being so impressive, jam packed with action and special effects, I did worry slightly that the movie may be a let down; all the good stuff in the trailers and nothing else left over, right? Well not to worry, ‘Dr. Strange’ does not disappoint.
Within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the audience has grown accustomed to a certain type of movie; traditionally your superhero defeating the bad guys, mainly in the form of the Avengers. In 2014 Marvel brought us a change of pace with Guardians of the Galaxy, changing up the idea of what is a protagonist ever so slightly, which I liked. Here, with Dr. Strange, Marvel shift things in a completely new direction, and I loved it. In an interview held at the Dr. Strange movie world premier in Hollywood last month, Mads Mikkelsen, who plays Kaecilius, our Dr. Strange villain stated:
“It’s not a man with superpowers, It’s people with inner strength.”
And that's it right there. This movie is not about a superhero or an individual with superhuman abilities. Even after the life altering accident, the change that happens is still not metahuman. This story is a about a human and the incredible journey he is about to take, and it’s trippy and it’s exciting, and it will blow your mind!
We follow the journey of Stephen Strange, top Neurosurgeon, rich, arrogant and confident in all aspects of his life, as he struggles to accept his current situation following a car accident which leaves him without the full use of his hands and unable to continue his work in the medical profession. During his struggles, he discovers the tale of former rehab patient, Jonathan Pangborn, who defied science to walk again after a paraplegia diagnoses. On meeting, Pangborn directs Strange to an unknown place called Kamar-Taj in search of answers, but with a warning that the price will be high. From this moment life will cease to be as it once was for Strange, as he begins his journey towards self healing, and also becoming the hero of our story.
On the realisation that the scientific and medical worlds can help him no further, Strange sets off on his quest to regain his body and his life and he journeys to Kathmandu in search of the mysterious Kamar-Taj. Here he discovers the Ancient One, who opens his mind and his world to new power, planes and dimensions. Strange overcomes his initial cynicism of the Mystic Arts and implores to be taught by the Ancient One; and it turns out he is quite the natural.
As he rapidly develops his skills and moves deeper into his training, Strange uncovers the global scale of the Mystic Arts, the dangers that lie within and the price that Pangborn had mentioned. Now that Dr. Strange has come this far and faces conflict will he stay and defend the Sanctum’s, or will he return to New York grateful for what he has gained so far? Well I am not going to tell you that. You’ll have to go find out for yourself but I thoroughly recommend that you do because Dr. Strange is an excellent movie. I really enjoyed the storyline, it was a refreshing pace for Marvel but one that as a long time fan I welcomed.
The cast line up in this film is yet another area that does not falter. Sarah Finn and Reg Poerscout-Edgerton did a great job at casting this movie. Benedict Cumberbatch was phenomenal. I honestly wouldn’t think 40 year old from Hammersmith and automatically think Marvel movie star, but as I said Dr. Strange is not your typical superhero movie and Cumberbatch more than does the script and the character justice. He has the ability to take the character to the darker depths of the story but he also gets away with the humour that is woven into the script without invoking any cringing from the audience. In an interview with Kinowitter Cumberbatch talks about his journey throughout filming and how it was a learning experience for him, working and filming with Marvel. Training intensively within Flow Yoga as well as fitness and diet training, Benedict Cumberbatch worked hard on this part, and it definitely paid off. Director Scott Derrickson and President of Marvel studios Kevin Feige also felt that Cumberbatch was the perfect fit for the movie, revealing at a Dr. Strange press conference that they moved the entire filming schedule, also resulting in less post production time for the movie, just to work around Cumberbatch- pretty flattering!
Starring opposite our Dr. Strange is the gorgeous Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer, Dr. Strange’s colleague and former sort of lover. Despite being our lead role’s love interest, the role of Christine Palmer is actually quite small within the movie, this however does not mean that Rachel McAdams is by any means small in her portrayal of the character. She plays the part confidently and stands very strong opposite her co-star Cumberbatch. The two perform together naturally and have fantastic onscreen chemistry. McAdams is hard-working when it comes to her craft. Not just relying on her acting, McAdams loves to fully learn about the role she will be portraying stating how she enjoys "an opportunity to gain new skills and become someone else for a time". In an interview with Kinowitter McAdams talks about shadowing medical staff for her role as emergency room doctor Christine Palmer, and has actually stated in several interviews that she could now suture someone- Maybe stick with the oranges and chicken breasts they had you practicing with onset please Rachel! The interesting thing about McAdams’ role is the future possibilities. There has been some discussion amongst fans about whether she will take the role of Christine Palmer into the official ‘Night Nurse’ role. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige denies a progression of Palmer’s character into the alter-ego of Night Nurse. Similarly in the Kinowitter interview, Rachel McAdams states no futures plans or thoughts for Christine Palmer when asked outright about the future of the character. However at the Dr. Strange press conference shown by ‘Flicks and the City’, McAdams talks about her research for the role, elaborating to state that Christine Palmer is based on several characters, and that director Scott Derrickson gave her several comics to read for the role including Nightcrawler, which features Christine Palmer as Night Nurse. Who knows what will happen but it’s always fun to speculate.
Another character in the movie with a different narrative than perhaps expected was Baron Mordo played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. In the comics Mordo is a villain, yet in this movie he is Strange’s adviser and ally. In an interview writer Jon Spaihts explains the decision for this and puts it down to the need for a connection between the two characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe before any type of feud can begin; allowing the pair to bond initially in the origin movie will allow for further and deeper destruction at a later date. Ejiofor was an impressive supporting role in this movie, bringing strength and a lot of emotion to the character; which I guess is what the bosses wanted to see. As a controversial casting, Tilda Swinton is The Ancient One, who is just visually stunning. There was some upset due to The Ancient One being cast as white and female, and not an Asian man like in the comics; however writer C. Robert Cargill explained the political concerns around this and stated that they could never please everyone no matter which way they went with casting. You can read his statement on this here. I think Swinton is incredible as The Ancient One. Her performance was very impressive, specifically the intricate hand choreography that she demonstrates a lot of throughout the movie. In fact the majority of the cast, apart from McAdams, at some point display beautifully choreographed sequences that required a lot training, and are very visually striking. This movement is called Tutting, which they were taught by professional ‘Jay Funk’, who Swinton talks about in the Q & A portion of this press conference.
The villain of the movie is Kaecilius played by Mads Mikkleson. What I like about this villain is that there are points in the movie when you find yourself wondering if you agree with him. He actually has a solid motive which adds to the strength of the story overall. Mikklesen plays this part really well. He is strong, a little bit creepy but not too much so that you can’t take him seriously, and he also brings a little bit of humour to the role. Mikklesen spoke to Entertainment Weekly about his excitement for this role and how it was a childhood dream of his to do Fung-Fu like his hero Bruce Lee, and despite his age, he was going to give this role his all. What I also loved about Kaecilius’ character was the costume and stage makeup. The costume in general throughout the movie was great, this is an area that Marvel always gets really well, but I was particularly impressed by the detail in the make up of Kaecilius and the other Zealots. I thought the eye make up was awesome, and apparently I’m not alone on this one because there are MANY ‘Kaecilius Make-Up Tutorials’ available online so you can have a go for yourself at home.
If I have to give any criticism, and I must stress that I feel I would be nitpicking here, because if you haven’t noticed I loved the movie. But yes if I have to give any criticism it would be for the astral projection fight scene between Dr. Strange and Lucian. I just felt it was one of the weaker scenes and that it played a bit fast and loose with the rules of astral projection, what is and isn’t possible, and what should and should not make sense within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sure the idea of an astral projection fight was pretty cool, and in a movie where we explore different planes and dimensions it had to be done, I just think it could have been better. Like I said… nitpicking!
POST CREDIT SCENE ***MASSIVE SPOILERS***
If you do not want to know what is revealed in the post credit scene, then look away now. There is also a give away to the end of the movie here, so stop reading if you do not want to know. Click here to check out our latest comic book reviews instead.
So the end of the movie arrives and we all get super excited and act like we just paid £15 to see a 45second clip. This one however is quite good, in fact we get two post credit scenes at the end of Dr. Strange so make sure you stick around long enough to catch them, as not everyone did. In the first, The God of Thunder himself is present for a meeting with the future Sorcerer Supreme and explains that he and Loki are on Earth looking for their farther and Dr. Strange asks how he can help? Now at this I have mixed feelings. I am a tad confused because if you remember we left Loki back on Asgard in 2013 sitting on the throne appearing to the rest of the world as if he were Odin, when in fact Odin had appeared to have been slain; although I am excited to see a potential cinematic collaboration between Dr. Strange and the Asgardians, which Kevin Feige hints at happening quite soon at the Dr. Strange press conference.
But before I get too excited about the fate of the next Dr. Strange movie a second teaser is revealed and we are brought back to the character of Jonathon Pangborn, whose recover story triggered off our doctor’s adventure and metamorphosis. Pangborn is confronted by a dark and bitter Mordo, who with new knowledge is a changed character. Tearing the magic from Pangborn, the life force that had been reversing his paraplegia, he states that the problem with this world is “Too many Sorcerers”. Despite being on the home team in this movie, Mordo is known within the Dr. Strange comics as Strange’s adversary, so this is most likely a potential plot set up for the next Dr. Strange movie, but we will have to wait and see.
As an origin movie Dr. Strange was a fantastic addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was a great way to introduce the character to the franchise and also the character to new audience members. Not only did it push the boundaries of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it pushed the boundaries of cinematography and it did it stunningly. I am really excited to see where Marvel studios take this movie and the characters next as there are many possibilities.