FILM REVIEW | DOCTOR STRANGE

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By Chaedy Ritherdon

 

Doctor Strange is the latest Marvel film from Disney Studios, but it holds its own as a stand-alone film. If you’ve yet to see any of the films in Disney’s Avengers series, then you can absolutely see Doctor Strange without feeling lost. (Well, no more than the film wants you to.) Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will no doubt flock to see the next chapter in the ongoing story, but fear not: this is no Iron Man 2.

 

The film is the origin story of how Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) transforms from the selfish, arrogant surgeon into a costumed hero who is a master of mysticism and the multiverse. The story is a paint-by-the-numbers hero’s journey: a catastrophe forces the selfish or reluctant hero on their journey; they find a mentor; and they get a weapon they later use in the Boss Fight™ at the end. This could have easily been a humdrum film, but it is executed really well by director Scott Derrickson – which is impressive considering this is Derrickson’s fifth feature film as a director.

 

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Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor).

 

The visuals are outstanding and it is for that reason that this is absolutely a film that must be seen on a big screen. I can only imagine how amazing this would look in an IMAX cinema. I personally loathe 3D films, as to me they just look like layers of flat shapes, rather than being rounded shapes with depth. There were many scenes in Doctor Strange that I couldn’t help but feel that they would have looked amazing in 2D. There are cutesy parts that will remind you that you’re watching a Disney film, and while the light humour helps to give the darker moments contrast, they are sadly executed with a bit of cheesiness that feels out of place with the film as a whole.

 

Cumberbatch is type-casting himself in yet another sociopathic role, but there is a playfulness to Strange that makes him his own character. You can see the skill and craftsmanship that Cumberbatch has put into this role, as his performance deftly shows the research he has done into how surgeons move and how people recovering from traumatic injuries move during rehabilitation. Doctor Strange’s journey from know-it-all jerk to ingenious hero who gives a damn about people other than himself is fluid and believable – a credit to both Cumberbatch and Derrickson. However, Cumberbatch’s accent does wander a bit. There are times when it becomes a lot stronger and pronounced before it fades back into standard American, but there is no denying that Cumberbatch is amazing at what he does, and he cuts a very dashing figure as Doctor Strange with his goatee and full attire.

 

Two of the five main characters are female, and Doctor Palmer (Rachel McAdams, Spotlight) rises above being just a love interest and is a character that can exist without Strange in her life. Top points go to casting Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) as Karl Mordo so that not all the main characters are white, and for making The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) a woman. But was it that hard to find an Asian actor for the role?

 

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Doctor Palmer (Rachel McAdams) and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch).

 

I adore Tilda Swinton, but after seeing the film I cannot help but feel that casting her as The Ancient One was not the best thing they could have done. Disney wanted to market the film to China, so they had to change Doctor Strange’s training sequence from being in Tibet to Nepal, and The Ancient One was transformed from being a Tibetan monk into a Celtic woman who channels Tripitaka. China would have banned the film if they’d stuck to the original Tibetan origins, and Derrickson has stated that it would be culturally insensitive to cast a Chinese actor as a Tibetan character, as that could be interpreted as an endorsement of Chinese control of Tibet. However, I can’t help but ask: was Malaysian actor Michelle Yeoh busy?

 

I get that they wanted to recreate the character from being a 1960s stereotype and to show that spirituality exists outside of Asia, but then why show us a martial arts training sequence in what looks like a Buddhist temple? Marvel keeps giving us white characters who can master Asian mysticism and martial arts in Daredevil and Iron Fist (coming soon to Netflix) better than Asian people. Sadly, Doctor Strange is yet another example.

 

Whitewashing aside, this is one of Marvel’s better films. Not as good as Deadpool, but then what is?

 

Doctor Strange is now showing at all major cinemas, as well as IMAX.

 

4 stars

What does this rating mean?

 

Trailer
Rated: M
Runtime: 1 hour 55 mins
Director: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen

 

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