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Dr Strange review: the other good doctor

Dr Strange played by Benedict Cumberbatch, is a talented neurosurgeon with an ego rivaling Tony Stark’s. From billionaire genius to a humble magician, his origin story stays true to Marvel’s formula for good movies.

We’re introduced to the Doc playing a game of “guess the song” while operating on a patient’s brain — his nonchalant attitude toward the procedure is indicative of his skill as a doctor.

The movie doesn’t seem to focus on his past with his parents and siblings (as most comic fans are used to) but instead follows his journey forward from a great man to a fragment of his former self.

We first meet this mystic in the back pages of Marvel’s Strange Tales which headlined the Human Torch. Years later, he became one of the stranger Marvel characters (pun intended), using his mystical powers to bend and shape time and reality to his will.

But before he could become the great sorcerer we know him for, Strange had to undergo the usual hero trials and tribulations — his old self needed to be broken down and rebuilt through self-realisation or a reckoning of some sort.

After a horrific accident took his hands, Strange begins to unwind like a thread, fraying and breaking over time. Dragged to the bottom by his anger and sense of failure, he decided that it was time to find alternatives to Western medicine.

During his search, he came to fall under the tutelage of The Ancient One played by Tilda Swinton. Under her guidance, he begins to learn the ways of magic, but not to help those around him. Instead he learns about these ancient ways in order to heal himself.

Dr Strange used to be one of the strongest Marvel characters, defeating those wielding the infinity gauntlet

That is, until his life and the lives of others are threatened by an evil force known as the Zealots, a group of mystic detractors lead by Kaecilius played by Mads Mikkelsen. A powerful student of The Ancient One, Kaecilius left her teaching to sit under the darkness of Dormammu.

Kaecilius’ believes that time is the one true evil in this world, that time spits in the face of creation which he believes should be eternal. But his resentment for The Ancient One goes far beyond his own beliefs, he finds her hypocrisy appalling and her hoarding of power to be an insult to existence as well.

dr strange review 2

The movie does well to visually depict Steve Ditko’s (co-creator of Dr Strange) vision of trippy scenery and mirror worlds through the latest VFX technology. Much like Inception’s scene of folding buildings, Dr Strange folds entire realms into one another, changing the very fabric of reality. This movie is best seen in an IMAX theatre or in general 3D to truly appreciate the visuals.

The interactions that Dr Strange has with the other characters — including the villain — has Marvel’s general formula for witticism and sarcasm all over it.

If DC’s flicks are far too serious, Marvel’s are too light-hearted. This particular film made me forget about the more serious moments in the film, it also doesn’t even attempt to delve into some of the mysticism behind the magic we see on screen.

However, the pacing of the movie is noteworthy: it does well to never leave you bored, and it always keeps you on your toes. My only severe criticism was the ending. Clearly leaving the audience hanging on for a sequel, it doesn’t close with a noteworthy bang.

Movie information:

Release Date: 4 November 2016 (South Africa)
Cast: Benedict Cumberbach, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Studio: Marvel Studios
Director: Scott Derrickson
Genre: Sci-Fi, Action
Age restriction: 13 PG LP
Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes

Verdict: If you’re a fan of Marvel or comics in general or if you just want to see a good movie, go watch this one in theatres. Make sure you stay through the credits, you’ll thank me later.

Score: 7/10