Benedict Cumberbatch joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe playing the role of Dr Stephen Strange, an acclaimed but arrogant neurosurgeon, who damages the nerves in his hands in a car accident (do not text and drive!) and is no longer able to perform surgery.
Fellow surgeon and former flame Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) tries to help him come to terms with the diagnosis but Strange is adamant that he can regain the use of his hands and spends months and millions of dollars in experimental procedures which are all in vain.
When Strange hears of a paraplegic who has mysteriously gained the use of his legs again he seeks him out and is directed to Kamar-Taj in Nepal.
Here he discovers that for centuries Earth has been protected by a secret society of sorcerers from supernatural threats. Led by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and helped by her disciples Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Wong (Benedict Wong) he becomes a practitioner of both the mystical arts and martial arts.
When ex-disciple Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) returns seeking revenge, Strange must decide whether his new abilities should be used to fix himself so he can return to his former life or to embrace a new path of service and self-sacrifice.
Director Scott Derrickson gives us a visually stunning film, which has influences of M.C.Escher and Christopher Nolan’s Inception, creating a world which is like looking through a kaleidoscope. Comic book fans will also notice the influence of artist Steve Ditko who created Doctor Strange in the 1960’s with Stan Lee. His artwork in the comics was acclaimed for its surrealistic mystical landscapes and psychedelic visuals.
Benedict Cumberbatch gives a solid performance (though I wasn’t sold on his American accent) as Doctor Strange managing to add credibility to the characters journey from neurosurgeon to sorcerer whilst injecting just enough humour to make him likeable despite his arrogance.
As with all origin stories there isn’t enough time to develop the supporting cast and they are mostly used as a contrast to Strange. Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One is provided the most development time outside of Doctor Strange as her character helps him come to terms with his powers. Despite the controversy surrounding Derrickson’s decision to hire a white actor in a traditionally Asian role, Swinton is great in the part bringing an air of authority and presenting the Ancient One as skilled, tormented and flawed.
Mads Mikkelsen makes a convincing villain at the start of the film but is very underused as the story progresses making him the weakest aspect of Doctor Strange as a whole. Marvel have yet to give us the perfect villain.
Doctor Strange takes place in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe but whilst there are shots of the Avengers Tower and the team are mentioned the majority of the story is stand-alone making it a good jumping on point for the casual filmgoer and for those Marvel fans who want a break from the Avengers world.
With two end credits giving a hint of things to come it looks as though Marvel intend for Doctor Strange to be around for some time and that’s no bad thing.