Prior to seeing the film Doctor Strange, I knew nothing of the Marvel character or his lore. I’d known plenty about the Avengers and even the Guardians of the Galaxy before seeing those comic book characters vividly come to life cinematically, but Doctor Strange was definitely a blind spot of mine. After seeing the film I can confidently say that I’m perfectly fine with having not read the comics previously and furthermore, not having an inkling of interest in the future exploits of the titular Doctor. In fact, as I was preparing for my interview with the film’s romantic lead, Rachel McAdams (who’s charming as always in the film, by the way), I had a very difficult time remembering much of the film. It’s that forgettable. Doctor Snooze would be a far more accurate title for the film, had his name not actually been Doctor Strange.
All you have to know about the film, really, is that visually it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before on film. Unless you’ve seen Inception, of course. Remember the scene where Leonardo DiCaprio is first explaining to Ellen Page how she can bend and twist anything at her will in her dream state and she turns the streets and monuments of Paris into an epic kaleidoscope of concrete? Well almost everyone in Doctor Strange can do that too, with Matrix-like philosophizing and exposition blathering at the same time! And boy do they do it frequently. Oftentimes it feels like that’s the only trick director/co-writer Scott Derrickson has up his proverbial sleeve.
The film follows the brilliant yet arrogant neurosurgeon Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch, essentially rehashing his Sherlock persona but with a stiff American accent) who, following a horrific car accident that renders his hands incapable of performing surgery, desperately journeys to Nepal to find a cure to his physical ailments. What he finds there instead are mystical teachings of sorcery and the existence of other dimensions by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and her disciple Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Using balletic hand motions and his Cloak of Levitation (which recalls the magical carpet in Aladdin), Strange channels portals and time manipulation to essentially get his mojo back and try to defeat the malevolent Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelson, sorely wasted in the thankless, cookie cutter villain role). Benedict Wong appears briefly in the film as the comedic foil to the strange antics at Kamar-Taj and easily steals every scene he’s in.
While I eagerly await the Cumberbatch fans’ defense of the film, utterly ignoring how dull or whitewashed it is, I’ll be here counting down the days until Thor: Ragnarok.