Borrowing what worked wonders for the first “Iron Man” film, Marvel’s live-action adaptation of “Doctor Strange” takes a much welcomed detour from the recent, slightly serialized releases. It’s a trip worth taking as it ranks as the most visually impressive Marvel film. Director Scott Derrickson pulled off what many comic fans thought impossible in bringing the surreal, imaginative and highly interpretive artwork from the panels to live-action. With Benedict Cumberbatch to boot.
The creative team scores heavily on casting. While it would’ve been great to avoid the white washing of one major character, you couldn’t ask for better than Tilda Swinton. She’s ethereal and other-worldly in all the right ways, drawing us with Strange in this mystical journey. Benedict Wong and Chiwatel Ejiafor are both upgrades from the respected source material. The former’s character from the source material would make Edward Said go DC Comics.
The downside here comes from the underutilization of Rachel McAdams and Mads Mickkelsen. Both actors have fun moments, but McAdams ultimately comes off as a basic love interest while Mikkelsen feels quite tame.
They all operate in a Nepal set temple that rarely calls that much attention to itself compared to the visual light show that’s happening throughout. In fact, Derrickson and his crew found a way to make the sets themselves operate along with the action. Since the character is known to go back and forth between different dimensions and/or planes of existence, the filmmakers manage to combine all kinds of post-modern art (from Escher to Pink Floyd) in constructing the many different worlds featured in this film.
When most of these Marvel film’s usually feature people punching or shooting each other (a lot), it’s refreshing to see “Doctor Strange” taking a more creative route with the set pieces. There’s still punching and shooting, but most of these big action sequences are rendered unique, original and diverse. They seriously one-up the level of creativity with each big moment that followed, culiminating in one of the most mind-bending set pieces that uses time in several ways we’ve never seen before. Put it simply, “Doctor Strange” is the one Marvel film that’ll show you something so imaginative that it fittingly sets itself apart from most other films in their cinematic universe.
Tony Stark and Stephen Strange as characters are quite similar, operating from material that was written in close proximity by the same hand. Cumberbatch’s Strange is an arrogant figure who finds a purpose greater than himself, tested much like everyone else that make up that universe, and it’s great to see character play an important element in the plot and storytelling. But what makes this particular ride stand out is that it’s refreshingly one of both body and mind.