Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. USA, 2016. Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Pictures. Screenplay by Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill, based on the Marvel comics by Steve Ditko. Cinematography by Ben Davis. Produced by Kevin Feige. Music by Michael Giacchino. Production Design by Charles Wood. Costume Design by Alexandra Byrne. Film Editing by Sabrina Plisco, Wyatt Smith. Academy Awards 2016. North Carolina Film Critics Awards 2016. Phoenix Film Critics Awards 2016.
A top-tier brain surgeon (Benedict Cumberbatch) has his future destroyed when a car accident causes nerve damage in his once steady hands that he cannot repair. Turning his back on his colleague and lover (a wonderfully breezy Rachel McAdams), he tries every medical method to restore his skills until, out of desperation, he travels to Nepal where what at first seems like a charlatan guru turns out to be a sorceress (Tilda Swinton) who teaches him how to use his mind to control both his motor skills and the elements. Just in time, too, because as Doctor Strange is starting to get adept at this magic, his superiors are attacked by a wayward former pupil (Mads Mikkelsen) who has turned to the dark side and wants to destroy them all. I don’t know why a film franchise that knows its fans will sit through something much longer short-shrifts us on a more detailed and developed training sequence; the film also doesn’t really develop its villain’s menace, but for something that is barely more than a set-up and quickie plot it is definitely a lot of fun. Terrific effects and a candy-coloured visual scheme make it feel like the best of fifties sci-fi exploitation has been given the modern superhero treatment, but the best aspect of it, and the reason why the fact that it is little more than the sum of its parts doesn’t hurt, is that its humour is generous and relaxed without ever begging to be acknowledged (I’m looking at you, Deadpool). Swinton constantly reacting to Cumberbatch’s sarcasm with patience instead of spewing self-important jargon makes sure that this film is constantly aware of its imaginative nature, but for plot and action the 2007 animated feature is more satisfying.