Saturday, 29 October 2016

The doctor may be strange, but the fun is spot on

The world might seem to be going to hell in a handcart, but the big screen entertainment just keeps on delivering.

Having not been inside a cinema for 16 years until July last year, the first 10 months of 2016 have already seen me make 10 visits – and given what’s on offer between now and the turn of the year, there are more to come.

Last night saw the 3D glasses make another appearance – this time for Dr Strange – another piece of superhero escapism from Marvel.

Dr Stephen Strange is a brilliant, pioneering neurosurgeon. Unfortunately, his ego and arrogance are on a similar scale, and when these traits help bring about a massive car crash that cripples his hands, he descends into a self-pitying, destructive mess.

Eventually, having heard of a man who made an apparently miraculous recovery from massive injuries, he heads out to Nepal, to search for a secret place called Kamar-Taj.

But all is not what he expects and, meeting the Ancient One, he finds all his beliefs about the nature of the world and life challenged, before finding himself in the unexpected position of having choose what path to take, with huge rammifications for the whole world.

We might have seen such a plot more than once – Ironman, anyone? – but this has been done with great aplomb and in very entertaining manner.

As with the decision to cast a major actor like Robert Downey J as Tony Stark, this benefits hugely from the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch as the eponymous doctor.

The wry humour that he brings to the role helps give the character roundness ­– and the same is very much true of his performance during Strange’s deepest levels of despair. Add to this that he can bring great charm to the screen even when he’s playing arrogant alpha male.

Tilda Swinton is the Ancient One ­– casting that caused controversy, since the character was originally a Tibetan man. But she’s the sort of actor who revels in being mysterious and ‘different’ ­and that’s perfect here.

Mads Mikkelsen turns in a strong performance as villain of the piece, Kaecilius – and manages to look slightly like a demented Vladimir Putin on occasion, a reminder (deliberate or not) of the of the global sabre rattling we find ourselves witnessing.

Chiwetel Ejiofor makes a good Karl Mordo – an upright master who acts as a balance to the flexible Strange.

Benedict Wong as another master, the librarian Wong, forms a fun relationship with Strange. The actors bounce off each other nicely.

And Rachel McAdams as a former medical colleague – and lover – of Strange also turns in a gutsy, rounded performance.

We’ll pass over the Stan Lee cameo – and move onto Scott Derrickson’s direction.

After opening with an action sequence that introduces the Ancient One and Kaecilius, the plot turns to creating the character of Strange. But Derrickson never let’s you feel as though as though it’s flagging and makes it feel that we’re getting some meat and not just fluff.

The special effects are stunning – and the 3D really does add to the overall experience.

The spells and the different planes of existence both benefit from a sense of almost being like gossamer, while the warping of the physical world is simply incredible – it can make you feel as though you’re nearing motion sickness!

The whole has a sumptuous, glossy look and has been set up easily for further outings.

Dr Strange is quite simply enormous fun. If you want to be entertained, catch it soon.

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