This might be the strangest entry into the Marvel canon – but in a very ‘trippy’ way it works.
It may not offer the same accessibility compared to other superheroes that have come from the Disney-owned studio’s previous two phases, but like with last year’s Ant-Man this at least offers up something different.
Oscar-nominated British star Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) – who headlines a heavily Brit-influenced cast that includes fellow nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) and Oscar-winner Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton) – is perfect as the ‘Sorceror Supreme’ in this noteworthy extension to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
After a horrific accident (seen in a quite scintillating crash scene) in his ‘flash’ sports car, the world’s top neurosurgeon Stephen Strange crushes his hands, leaving him with irreparable nerve damage that gives him his multi-million dollar income.
Looking for resources that will give him the means to regain full finger control – he disengages with close friend Christine (another Oscar-nominee in Spotlight’s Rachel McAdams) – and after a tip-off the arrogant Strange goes on a journey of healing to Nepal to find a Zen-like cure.
Here he meets a Celtic mystic, known as The Ancient One (Swinton) – along with her idealistic protégé Karl Mordo (Ejiofor) and mystic arts relic-protector Wong (Benedict Wong). He’s showm a hidden world of magic and alternate dimensions, and their place in defending the Earth from evil otherworldly elements with three sanctums located in London, New York and Hong Kong, which the egotistical Strange eventually embraces beyond his initial self-absorbed reasons to gain super powers.
But alas, The Ancient One has a former disciple that has gone rogue, Mads Mikkelson’s (Casino Royale) Kaecilius, who with his small gathering of minions steals a page from an ancient book as part of a scheme to summon world-eating Dormammu (think Galactus from Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer but better) to devour the planet.[youtube id=”HSzx-zryEgM” width=”600″ height=”350″]
Cumberbatch superbly seizes the now trademark Marvel humour – see stand-out tone-setting Kathmandu wi-fi joke – which helps balance out the movie from its long action-less spells and overuse of ‘Inception-esque’ building rolling set-pieces, as this undoubtedly evolves into the most eclectic Marvel movie yet.
It’s a ‘thinking’ movie – and stands alone as a thriller that non comic-book fans could pick up – which could polarise some audiences (particularly younger fans as it’s a slow burner), but there’s an air of likeability that runs throughout aided by Cumberbatch’s amiable presence.
Fellow stars Ejiofor and McAdams are surprisingly underused as it’s left to Wong to support Cumberbatch through some of the stand-out comedy-tinted moments, but with great visual effects and a well-conceived script this truly opens up a new corridor for where Marvel movies could go.
As for Strange, a role in the next Avengers film – and potentially Thor: Ragnarok – will be truly welcomed after this infectious first outing.
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Benedict Wong, Rachel Mcadams, Michael Stuhlbarg, Scott Adkins & Benjamin Bratt
Running Time: 1 Hr 55 Mins
Director: Scott Derrickson
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