“You’re a man looking at the world through a keyhole. You’ve spent your life trying to widen it. Your work saved the lives of thousands. What if I told you that reality is one of many?”
‘Doctor Strange’, directed by Scott Derrickson in 2016, is a fantasy adventure and is an instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Stephen Strange, a surgeon who is in a car accident and loses the ability to do his job. In desperation, he seeks a cure in Kathmandu under the tutelage of the Ancient One, a Celtic mystic played by Tilda Swinton. She exposes him to the Astral Plane and the ability to access and exploit dimensions beyond our own. Discovering that he has a natural ability with magic, Strange is drawn into a timeless battle with extra-dimensional beings and their acolytes. The film is a weird but successful combination of the hard reality and science of Marvel films such as ‘Iron Man’, ‘The Incredible Hulk’ and ‘Ant-Man’, and the more free-flowing fantasy of ‘Thor’. Strange’s dual role as scientist and magician is crucial for how these two contradictory worlds are reconciled. The stand-out elements of the film are the performances of Cumberbatch, Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and the great Mads Mikkelsen, and the trippy, kaleidoscopic visual effects. Again, it is the balance between these elements that give the film strength: the characters are all believable and nuanced just as the world around them becomes twisted and insubstantial. The sight of buildings folding together and Escher like three-dimensional mazes of streets has been done in films such as ‘The Matrix’ and ‘Inception’, but ‘Doctor Strange’ takes it a step further by emulating the psychedelic imagery of the comics. It’s fun, funny and mind-bending; it treads the line between being visually and narratively confusing, but just about manages to keep you on board.
Would I recommend it? For the pleasure of watching Cumberbatch play a superhero and for the transformation of reality into a Rubick’s puzzle I would suggest watching it on the big screen. I’m not sure how it will translate to a domestic environment, but that might by the moment to test the strength of the story.