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Marvel Doctor Strange
4/5
dir Scott Derrickson
prd Kevin Feige
scr Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson, C Robert Cargill
with Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott Adkins, Zara Phythian, Meera Syal, Amy Landecker
release UK 25.Oct.16, US 4.Nov.16
16/UK Marvel 1h55
Doctor Strange
Into the astral plane: Swinton and Cumberbatch

ejiofor mcadams wong
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Doctor Strange Perhaps for the first time, Cumberbatch channels his presence and buoyant charm into a superbly complex character, nailing an iconic role. So while the film is a psychedelic action romp, the actor is pushing and deepening every scene. The result is one of the most engaging and thrilling Marvel films to date. And refreshingly, the plot is relatively simple, never bogging down in the mythology.

Top neurosurgeon Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) knows how good he is, much to the annoyance of his colleague/ex Christine (McAdams). Then his rock-n-roll lifestyle comes to a crashing halt when his hands are injured. After exhausting medicine, he looks east, travelling to Kathmandu to consult with the Ancient One (Swinton), who opens his mind to the power within. Working with the experienced Mordo (Ejiofor), Stephen is still honing his magical skills when he's caught up in a battle with renegade sorcerer Kaecilius (Mikkelsen), who wants to drag Earth into a dark, timeless realm to save it.

Derrickson directs this with a cheeky sense of style, adding camp flourishes to the costumes, a jaunty kick in Michael Giacchino's score and plenty of kaleidoscopic flash in the trippy effects. Every scene is a visual feast, and the story's brisk pace never lets characters take themselves too seriously. Running gags abound, as Derrickson encourages his excellent cast to find little character details that quietly build personality and humour in unexpected ways.

Cumberbatch beautifully depicts Stephen's transformation from cocky to broken to even cockier. The actor invests so much brio that he's already a Marvel favourite alongside other likeably arrogant figures like Downey's Iron Man or Pratt's Star Lord. Opposite him, Swinton uses her whiplash timing to impeccable effect, Ejiofor adds a needed blast of true-believer earnestness, Mikkelsen is an unusually emotional villain, and McAdams provides an earthy blend of intelligence, ability and loyalty. While as the Ancient One's librarian, Wong gets several shameless scene-stealing moments.

The script kind of races past Stephen's darker emotional trauma, so Cumberbatch must use shorthand to convey the emotions of man whose entire identity has always stemmed from his once-nimble fingers. Everything to happen to him at a lightning pace, skimming across the eye-catching and mind-bending surfaces with only brief glimpses at the raw meaning underneath. But there's just enough resonance to ground the film in real feelings as it takes the audience on a wild ride. It also gives the Marvel universe some colourful new energy.

cert 12 themes, violence, language 24.Oct.16

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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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