Friday, 28 October 2016

Doctor Strange (5 Stars)

This is the most eagerly awaited film of 2016. The general public has been whipped into a frenzy by skilfully timed news releases and trailers, but I've been more anxious to see it than anyone else. Doctor Strange was always my favourite Marvel character. His early stories in Strange Tales were masterpieces, and I consider the 17-part story of his battle against Baron Mordo and Dormammu in Strange Tales #130 to #146 to be the highest achievement ever reached in comic books.

The first attempt at making a film called "Doctor Strange" failed miserably. If you haven't seen the first film, made in 1978, count yourself lucky. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth of anyone who watches it. It's a disgrace to the name of such a mighty hero. The new film needed to put things right.

As far as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is concerned, the new Doctor Strange film was of crucial importance. For the last eight years Iron Man has been the most popular character in the MCU, but Robert Downey Jr. has been hinting that he feels too old to continue with the role. A replacement was needed. Doctor Strange would be a good character for a long term continuation, because he isn't an action hero who needs to be young. The same actor could play the role for 40 or more years, but only if the films are good enough to make the public want to keep coming back. So much could be done wrong by picking the wrong actor or writing a poor quality story.

Benedict Cumberbatch was picked for the role of Dr. Stephen Strange. I have to say that this was an excellent choice. He's not my favourite actor. I find him very straight-laced and unemotional in practically every part he's ever played. But when it comes to Doctor Strange, this is just what's needed. In the comics Doctor Strange was probably the most cool and aloof of all the Marvel heroes.

I was very disappointed to hear that Tilda Swinton was chosen to play the part of the Ancient One. A woman? That's ridiculous. However, she does play the role well, if I try not to compare her with the comics. By now I've come to accept that the films are only partially faithful to the original stories. Some changes to Doctor Strange's origin, as presented in Strange Tales #110, were necessitated by having to tie the story into the Thanos Infinity Gem film, which will effectively round off the first big arc of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

I can't say too much about the film in this early review for fear of giving away spoilers to my readers who haven't yet seen it. All I'll say is that it lives up to its promise. It magnificently portrays the mystical dimension as drawn by Steve Ditko in the 1960's. The street fight scenes seem to be copied from "Inception", but that's acceptable in the context of the film. The only small fault I can pick with the film is Rachel McAdams' unconvincing acting, especially in the early scenes of the film. I hope we never see her again.

My initial verdict after a single viewing is that this is the best film of 2016 so far. If you haven't seen it yet, what are you waiting for?

P. S. As well as the mid-credits scene there is a scene at the end of the credits, so don't walk out of the cinema too soon.

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