4 stars
The world is a strange place, as neurological surgeon Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch - Hamlet) finds out after a life-threatening car crash.
Several operations later, the brilliant yet arrogant, self-centred ego-maniac still hasn’t regained control of his hands, and goes in search of a mystical cult in darkest Nepal who might be able to help. They can, but in ways he’d never imagined, ways that involve shaping time, jumping dimensions and other ‘sorcerer’s tricks’ that keep our planet and the multi-verses we inhabit, safe from harm. Cue another hit from Marvel Studios.

This much anticipated film arrives hard on the heels of many box-office hits for the group – Captain America, Iron Man and The Avengers among them. What makes Dr Strange so compelling is the complexity of its central character, and the space (world is too restrictive a term) in which he finds himself. Ironically, since Strange is such an odious and arrogant person, the film is much, much less tedious and arrogant than the aforementioned Marvel outings. Here is a man of the world, not one so patently, and rather boringly, confined to an American sensibility. The Nepalese, London, Hong Kong, New York and extra-terrestrial settings further expand that global sense of narrative along with well judged support from Tilda Swinton (A Bigger Splash) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave).

Strange finds himself an unlikely warrior in a battle between good (forces marshalled by The Ancient One (Swinton)) and bad (rogue student Kaecilius (Mads Mikkleson - The Hunt) who plans a new paradigm where time has no power), a situation which is patently untenable. Fortunately Strange has a raft of new skills plus a levitating cloak that unleashes the FX department on an unsuspecting 3D audience with startling effect. Imagine being caught in an Escher drawing that’s being squashed through a kaleidoscope. Yet for such an FX heavy experience, it feels surprisingly real as characters leap around defying all known – and perhaps many unknown – laws of physics. Unlike many visual extravaganzas in the Marvel-sphere, this is less a barrage, more an embrace.

Writer / director Scott Derrickson is better known for supernatural thrillers like The Exorcism of Emily Rose and puts his dexterity with alternate worlds to good use. Dr Strange is sharp, it’s funny as creator Stan Lee says in cameo on a bus – hilarious! - and it’s thrillingly entertaining: a winning blend of old-school matinee and #contemporary story-telling. This is one of the best (if not the best) Marvel movies the studio has produced simply because it rises above its own gloss to do what any good film should do – make you think, and make you care.


Previewed at Event Cinemas, Sydney, on 24 October 2016.

Benedict Cumberbatch
Tilda Swinton
Chiwetel Ejiofor
Rachel McAdams

Scott Derrickson

Scott Derrickson




115 minutes

October 27, 2016
Doctor Strange (2016) on IMDb
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