Christopher Nolan’s Inception was extensively raved for its concept and twisted ending. However, one of its awe-inducing scenes stole the limelight. In Marvel’s 14th offspring, which kickstarts the Phase III of Marvel Cinematic Universe, one particular scene is magnificently manoeuvred. From the beginning to the end. The gravity-defying hallway fight scene is a source of inspiration in this spell fest starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Doctor Strange is a visual marvel. It has some of the best CGI ever seen onscreen. The very first action scene will amaze even the most merciless moviegoer. Where matter transforms, buildings expand, and sorcerers fight in Matrix-esque style. The pyrotechnics are ten to the power everything jaw dropping we witnessed in Inception.
Doctor Strange begins in Nepal where Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelson) and his fellow sorcerers steal the precious ritual from a book belonging to the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). Moments later, when Kaecilius and company escape after a hallucinatory fight, we meet the witty, egotistical and virtuous neurosurgeon Stephen Strange, who’s dancing amidst an operation on Chuck Mangione’s 1977 hit single ‘Feels so good.’
Stephen is a doctor who won’t cure a patient who can’t be cured. Living an opulent lifestyle, he often ignores Christine (Rachel Adams), his fellow surgeon and possible love interest. One night while driving his Lamborghini, Stephen meets with a terrible accident, losing use of his hands. Frustrated with the irony of life, he refuses to accept the reality of life and move on with Christine. He splashes all his resources in the hope of getting cured. Through a guy named Pangborn, he learns about a place in Kathmandu where a cure for his ailment is available.
At Klamar-Taj, Kathmandu, he meets the Ancient One, where he learns about Astral Planes, mirror dimensions and parallel universes. Startled at first, Strange agrees to learn and practice sorcery to ameliorate his condition. But consequences lead him to help the Ancient One fight and stop Kaecilius from bringing hell on to Earth.
Besides the obvious comparison with Inception, Doctor Strange functions a lot like Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel and Jon Favreau’s Iron Man. The initial part reminds you of the first Robert Downey Jr superhero outing, while the action is reminiscent of Man of Steel. One spectacle follows another, unto the end credits. Fortunately, the editing is crisp. Not a single moment is wasted.
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But it would’ve been great had the writers dared to give some room for character development. Although Cumberbatch and Swinton are fun to watch as the self-centred doctor and the enigmatic preceptor with well-written characters. Everyone else feels either wasted or terribly underused. The Marvel tradition of featuring weaker villains is kept intact as Mads Mikkelson is terribly wasted. The actor appears in just half a dozen scenes which neither throw light on his motivations, nor explore his early life as a sorcerer.
Similarly, Chiwetel Ejiofor’s character, which seems to have a bigger role in the following films, is severely undercooked. His role can be easily segmented into two parts. One, where he is a blissful soul, later a baffled one. Rachel McAdams is the junior version of Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster. She’s used like a prop, to either romance Strange or induce some comic relief.
On the contrary, there is the generally great Marvel humour, including a clever scene where Strange and one of Kaecilius’s men fight in their Astral forms. Although the scene defies logic in some parts, the comic element covers up for it.
In context to the complaint that every Marvel movie culminates with a city destroyed, the climax is a refreshing watch.
Speaking of the future of MCU, there are lots of breadcrumbs in the film, particularly a daddy Marvel villain, an Infinity stone and Strange’s cloak of levitation which is best left for you to discover.
Doctor Strange is a solid entry in the Marvel canyon, considering we experienced a great superhero movie just months ago. Watch it for Cumberbatch, who will possibly fill the void that Robert Downey Jr’s exit will bring. And for the six-hundred VFX artists, who deserve a standing ovation for their fantastical work with the machines.
P.S. Watch it on IMAX 3D to fully witness the magic. Stick on for the two delicious post-credit scenes which will pump you up for 2017’s November biggie Thor: Ragnarok.
By Mayank Nailwal