Those old enough to have been around in the early Eighties will remember monstrous make up madam Steve Strange, lead singer of pop beat combo Visage, who used to mince about the Top of the Pops studio looking like pre op transsexual in a silver bin liner. However if Marvel’s latest superhero film is anything to go by it turns out that he’s was actually a brilliant neurosurgeon who has a near fatal car crash or perhaps we’re getting the two mixed up.
With Marvel having thoroughly ploughed the field of all their major stars they’ve started on what is probably their B list and having begun with Ant Man last year it’s time for beardy-weirdy, Dr Strange which few may be familiar with and it’s a bit of genius casting that Benedict Cumberbatch plays the role ensuring a ready made group of female followers (Cumber-Bitches as they’re unflatteringly referred as) who will drag their boyfriends along too as well as the die-hard Marvel fans and those who are just plain curious to see who the character actually is.
So after a barnstorming opening sequence set in London the film introduces Dr Steven Strange, an arrogant yet brilliant neurosurgeon who can perform operations whilst listening to hopelessly hip 70’s sounds focusing more on when the album was released than the operation in hand. Having performed yet another piece of life saving surgery for his colleague mate and part time bit on the side Dr Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) he goes home to his flat which shows that he’s clearly not on the NHS payroll as he ummmms and ahhhhs over which of a huge drawer of expensive watches to wear before driving off at speed in his sports car and promptly crashing it in spectacular fashion. Up to now Cumberbatch has made Dr Strange such an arrogant piece of work that it’s tempting to cheer when he flip flops his car down a cliff face into the river but it’s the aftermath that begins to illicit sympathy as he discovers that his formerly steady- eddy hands are reduced to quivering wrecks making any return to performing surgery impossible. And thus begins his quest to regain his ability and goes to Katmandu (they never go to Streatham or Southall, do they?) to find a mystic, played well by an unlikely Tilda Swinton, who may be able to help him. In turn he finds that he has a gift for mystic acts and finds that one of her former pupils (Mads Mikkelsen) is , for reasons not made completely clear, out to destroy the world.
Unusually this has been directed by horror director Scott Derrickson whose previous have included The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Deliver us from Evil and the excellent Sinister, a film written by C Robert Cargill who co writes with Derrickson here. From the early teaser trailers it seemed that many of the action sequences were in awe of those in Christopher Nolan’s ‘Inception’ as its cityscapes fold in on one another and characters fight in tumbling hallways, corridors and streets and these sequences certainly benefit from being shown in 3D. Trouble is that despite one initially trippy experience for the doctor it all builds to a climax it does become one enormous CGI-fest as all struggle to defeat the evil Mads Mikkelsen and much of the action is a little generic apart from one decent twist in a particularly destructive scene which plays in reverse whilst the characters fight in real time.
Cumberbatch is well suited to the role except when he runs around in hospital in his Dr Strange get up and rather than security being called to deal with a man who looks like he’s on his way to a fancy dress party he’s actually allowed to carry out operations. Tilda Swinton is reliable if a little anaemic whilst Mads Mikkelson as the lead villain is solemn yet lack lustre in a role that has him do little more than run around , make gestures with his hands like he’s a Tai Chi trainee and wears thick eye make that looks like he put it on for a 70’s glam rock gig and never took it off.
Unlike many in Marvel’s stable this has a hero who is not bestowed with inherent powers but rather learns them and for that there is something of the Harry Potter about the proceedings. It’s not one of Marvels best and is more of an establishing marker for what hopefully will be a better sequel.
Oh…… and yes there is both a mid and post credit scene.
Here’s the trailer: