Director: Scott Derrickson
Writers: Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton, Benedict Wong
Thirteen movies into the daunting project of overarching storytelling, when the think-tanks were reveling in the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a chink in the armor started to appear in the form of inaccessibility to new viewers. The modern comics arena is plagued with the problem of being complexly entwined to the point where event storytelling has muddled standalone comic storylines. The similar was brewing for Kevin Feige’s vision for which the task of rejecting familiarity was decided upon. Scott Derrickson undertook a job that seemed to embrace its uniqueness in the papers but delivered a product which desperately crawls back to the similar formula that the previous installments seemed to regurgitate over and over again.
The movie focuses on Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a renowned neurosurgeon who meets with an accident and resorts to the mystic arts of Kamar-Taj after Western medicine fails him in his recovery. Strange finds himself amidst an ongoing battle between forces that lurks in the shadows when he seeks tutelage under the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), a mysterious sorcerer who has been imparting the knowledge of mystic arts. Initially, Stephen Strange is portrayed as an egotistical yet charming and witty person at the top of his game. As the movie progresses, the story puts forward a half-baked transformation of the character from materialism to a stronghold of humanity. The viewers are treated with yet another character who wraps his heroism and moral fibre underneath charisma and quips which creates a pungent reminiscence of the person who started it all – Tony Stark. The parallels drawn by the movie find their way beyond the overtried and simple formula of Marvel Cinematic Universe and gropes at, literally, every generic story of a promising student gone rogue to acquire forbidden power and ultimately bested by the novice who magically exhibits the characteristics of the chosen one. In his overzealous rendition of something that is best passed as a montage, director Scott Derrickson tries to chart Strange’s progress that should comprise ‘study and practice, years of it’, but sadly fails to uphold the temporal axis and thus ends up delivering a protagonist with no real sense of character development but a sudden change of heart.The movie touches its actual low unapologetically by relying on coincidences to further the plot. However, the narrative through Strange’s eyes evoke a certain familiarity and strikes a chord with the viewers since the enigmatic world is as intimidating and strange to the protagonist as it is to the ones on the other side of the screen. The cynic’s perspectives are challenged and in a praiseworthy manner the director captures his desperation.
While the story offers nothing new, the movie is greatly redeemed through its visual spectacle.From the very get go, a world is built that embraces the uniqueness of the source material – a world that bends, a reality that is hidden, a self that is unexplored and mirrors that reflect countless possibilities. The sorcery of DOCTOR STRANGE brings about a cinematic flair that cuts through its one-dimensional storytelling of good versus evil and makes it entertaining as a typical blockbuster demands. It offers the staples of movies of such stature with glorious action and pulsating chase sequences. Humor and comic timing gives off a vibe of inconsistency with some sequences oozing the natural entertainment and others being shoehorned.
Benedict Cumberbatch’s transition from BBC’s ‘Sherlock’ to the big screen has been a rough one with critical acclamation blessed upon very few movies with him starring as a lead and yet his brand recognition has only seen meteoric hike with the iconic character of Khan. A truly tested theatre actor who brought to life the monster of Frankenstein with admirable agony is somehow nowhere to be seen in the characterization of Doctor Stephen Strange. He had little to work with in a medium that is laced with visual exuberance and the same affected the supporting cast in Mads Mikkelsen who played the generic villain, Kaecilius, and Benedict Wong. Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One delivers a performance that is attributed with her ever-mysterious androgynous aura and makes the character, with a numbingly different story approach, her own. Chiwetel Ejiofor serves as an apt focal point between the three characters, Strange, Ancient One and Kaecilius with his embodiment of all the three and although seems to be underused, he remains the only one with a promising character development. Rachel McAdams, however, is criminally relegated to being a love interest, although not a typical one at that. With minimal screen time, her acting doesn’t even register onto the radar and thus the character is transformed into a punching bag for the plot, one that is used whenever a sequence demands the protagonist to fall back to someone.
Marvel’s DOCTOR STRANGE is a crowd pleaser which will justify the visit to the theatres when expectations are of a generic blockbuster film but fails miserably to revolutionize the genre as promised.
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