Marvel Studios’ output has, over the last couple of years, become somewhat erratic – for every fun adventure like Guardians of the Galaxy there had been a plodding smash em up retread like Age of Ultron, so with the arrival of the Sorcerer Supreme and the Cosmic Realm in Doctor Strange, how have they done?
From the start it’s a bit of a mix as we are introduced to Mads Mikkelsen’s antagonist Kaecilius and his band of Zealots using their mystic powers while we then meet Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dr Stephen Strange as an arrogant neurosurgeon using his more scientific powers.
While throughout its clear Mikelsen and Cumberbatch are both having a great time and there are suggestions (I won’t dwell on them as really they are only suggestions) of more grown up themes the basic plot is more of the same – we get Strange’s origin story with some not so subtle references to other Marvel movies thrown in and a big cgi bad to face off against in the climax.
Despite this however the design and visuals make this a lot of fun. While the city folding is a bit sub-Inception it is the tour de force introduction to the cosmic realm and then later forays there that really stand out. Combining Steve Ditko’s psychedelic artwork with aspects of the 2001 ‘stargate’ it expands on things glimpsed in Ant-Man to great effect and discovering it along with Strange is very well handled.
Also well handled is a fairly standard act three which, at one point, I worried it was all going a bit Suicide Squad but a last minute contrivance actually made it slightly more interesting than it might otherwise have been.
Most of all though, a little like Ant-Man, I think my favourite aspect was that at no point did Doctor Strange take itself too seriously. Strange himself could easily have been tiresome but was suitably lampooned as ‘an asshole’ whenever necessary while Mikelsen’s sense of fun slightly elevated his character above the likes of Guardian’s Ronan The Accursed – though it’s fair to say Marvel still don’t have the strongest rogues gallery. With hints and suggestions of more interesting things to come (as well as some inevitable, likely tiresome, team ups) Doctor Strange is an entertaining watch with a slight twist on the old formula. It’s not going to break any boundaries like its hero does but it’s a diverting addition to the Marvel archive slightly outside the main Avengers narrative.