Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott Adkins
Director: Scott Derrickson
Much in the manner of Tom Cruise in “Edge of Tommorrow”, the titular hero of this Marvel (lous) origins story finds himself in a time loop allowing him to live out the same brutal combat over and over again.
Before that, like Cage, the character played by Leonardo di Caprio in Christopher Nolan’s mind-blowing “Inception”, Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) experiences buildings folding, disintegrating as a result of the effect of alternate directions of gravity in chaotic nightmarish scenes.
Never mind the smidgen of déjà vu, but most movie goers will thoroughly enjoy the film that Scott Derrickson has put together from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) Please note, gentle reader, your reviewer uses the word “most”. Because there are those who will definitely disapprove of the occult practices in the film and the fact that the hero’s guru suggests there may be no afterlife, and that the nothingness of death is the end. Zenlike wouldn’t you say?
This Kathmandu-based guru goes by the name of The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) clearly inspired by the Biblical Ancient of Days who is usually pictured as a silver haired aged man, except that in Dr Strange, this guru is female and white and bald. Shouldn’t the guru have been Tibetan? Indian? Asian? Oh well.
Cumberbatch’s central character and the antagonist (Mads Mikkelsen—who plays the cannibalistic villain in the TV version of Silence of the Lambs) also possess attributes (and allegations) about the Christ. Dr Strange’s medico girlfriend whom he treats badly is called Christine.
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If we ignore the source material by which I mean, Scriptural not the Marvel comic book, we can commend the film, specifically, the Ancient One for teaching the titular protagonist salutary lessons in humility and sacrifice.
“It’s no about you. Shed your ego with your arrogance and pride” the Ancient One tells brilliant neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange who loses the use of his hands after a horrific car accident. Disappointed by allopathy, he looks elsewhere for healing. No, not prayer. He is, after all, a Darwinian who dwells in a world of Matter. What he doesn’t acknowledge is that science can only explain the HOW of things, not the Why
That, as believers know, is in the realm of religion and spirituality. Then, hope springs forth in his proud heart after a chance meeting with a man who walked after shattering his spine and almost every bone in his body.
That survivor tells him to go to a mysterious place called Kamar-Taj in the foothills of the Himalayas.
So off, goes Dr Strange to Kathmandu where he is eventually, invited to join the front line of a cosmic battle against Evil and its acolytes led by Mikkelsen.
Trained by the guru and sorcerer chelas (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor and wong) Dr Strange acquires his very own special weapon along with magical, mystical powers that bend reality as we know it on planet earth. Make that, Hong Kong, London and New York. Why two cities across the Pond? What about Latin America, Africa and Australia?
Written for the screen by C. Robert Cargill, “Doctor Strange” has a plot which is not as mind-blowing as “Inception” or even The Matrix. And yet, the film is exceptionally good. Where it scores is in its spectacular, awesome visual effects, and terrific action sequences.
There’s also room for snarky humour, sight gags, pop culture references (Dr Strange has encyclopaedic knowledge of pop music) and even a wee bit of romance. Drawing on Biblical concepts of faith and restorative justice, director Derrickson makes mysticism the answer to our dread of mortality in this illuminating and exciting tale of spirituality and science.