Review: Doctor Strange
This week I went to see Doctor Strange in the cinema. At first I was not very excited because there have been so many Marvel superhero films over the last few years. In fact, the plot of Doctor Strange is similar to the first Iron Man film, as both have arrogant male protagonists who are injured, whose world view changes over the course of their origin story, and whose superpowers are a side effect of their attempt to cure themselves. However, I actually really enjoyed the film. The cast was excellent, the special effects were interesting and beautiful, the fight scenes were well choreographed and the jokes were funny.
When the film begins, Doctor Strange is an arrogant and successful brain surgeon. Then he crashes his car and almost dies. Although he survives, his hands are badly damaged and he has to stop working as a surgeon. Determined to find a way to cure his hands, Strange journeys to Kathmandu, Nepal, in search of a mysterious group led by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton).
Scott Derrickson, the director, had a difficult task because the comics which inspired the film have a stereotyped view of Asia. When I heard that the Ancient One character had been changed from an Asian man to a white woman I was concerned. However, Swinton brings a wonderful sense of otherworldliness to the character, and the casting of the group of sorcerers as a whole is multicultural, with the second in command, Mordo, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor and the librarian, Wong, played by Benedict Wong.
The film had some great funny moments, even during the dramatic fight scenes, that kept the tone light. For example, Mordo shows Doctor Strange to his room and then gives him a mysterious code. When Doctor Strange looks confused, Mordo explains that the code is the Wi-Fi password!
My favourite thing about the film is the beautiful special effects. If you have seen Inception, you will find the scenes with folding, origami-like cities familiar, but the practice has been taken to the extreme here. The sorcerers have powers over space and time, and the ability to travel between worlds and dimensions, which gives the digital artists the opportunity to create fantastic kaleidoscope-style effects.
My final reason for enjoying the film is that Strange's evolution into a hero feels earned and thoughtful. For example, after his first kill Strange is upset both as a man and as a doctor, and he is passionate about being sure that his fighting has a purpose. In his fights, his resourcefulness and intelligence are just as important as his magical powers.