“You think you know how the world works. You think this material universe is all there is. What if I told you the reality you know is one of many?”
Like everyone else, we’ve been waiting for “Doctor Strange” to be released in the cinemas for as long as we can remember. So when our friends from Disney Malaysia extended an invite to the press screening just this morning, we jumped at the opportunity. Probably with the same vigour that Benedict Cumberbatch leapt at the chance to play the Marvel hero ;)
The official synopsis is as follows:
“Marvel’s Doctor Strange follows the story of the talented neurosurgeon Doctor Stephen Strange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) who, after a tragic car accident, must put ego aside and learn the secrets of a hidden world of mysticism and alternate dimensions. Based in New York City’s Greenwich Village, Doctor Strange must act as an intermediary between the real world and what lies beyond, utilising a vast array of metaphysical abilities and artefacts to protect the Marvel cinematic universe.”
Warning: Review may contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.
In “Doctor Strange”, Benedict Cumberbatch plays the titular role of Doctor Stephen Strange, a Marvel Comics superhero created by artist and character conceptualist Steve Ditko in 1963. Like the comic character, the live-action Doctor Stephen Strange is a brilliant man of science and an egotistical neurosurgeon. That is, until a car accident nearly kills him and leaves his hands (the parts of him that are instrumental to his successful career) terribly mangled, therefore hindering his ability to perform surgery.
Bitter, helpless, desperate, and on the verge of losing it all (here’s where he irrationally snaps at Rachel McAdams’ character, Christine Palmer), he sets off on a journey of healing at Kamar-Taj, giving up medicine and logic for magic, and discovers the hidden world alternate dimensions. Although he has a great sense of humour, he’s also smug and disrespectful at first, ever ready to hand out snarky comments and replies. But as he undergoes spiritual development, he begins to take his role seriously.
All on the watch of his mentor, Karl Mordo (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), as well as the Ancient One (played by Tilda Swinton), of course.
Luckily for the audience, Marvel jumps right into the whole wacky/trippy bending of space and time with an ample amount of computer graphics (CG). In fact, we were sucked right along with the characters into an astral plane before being thrown about in mind-bending sequences of folding cities, rolling landscapes, and tumbling buildings. With cars dropping off edges and ceilings and floors giving way to form steep drops, our attention was pulled to every single corner of the screen with hardly enough time to breathe.
It was an out-of-body experience that we would do all over again. Oh, in a heartbeat.
And that’s not to say that director Scott Derrickson prioritised the dizzying scenes over proper film and character development! Each character was given a proper introduction, with some interesting twists thrown into the mix, which means that both heroes as well as villains are equally unpredictable. There were also moments of humour (that Cloak of Levitation though), some Easter eggs, and references to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) that we thoroughly enjoyed.
As for the case of the whitewashing controversy, which left most Marvel fans and netizens up in arms, you’ll be pleased to find that the movie is not without Asian elements at all, what with Benedict Wong playing Wong, one of the Masters of Mystic Arts, tasked with protecting some of Kamar-Taj’s most valuable relics and books. On top of that, fans will also get to see Hong Kong in a big way at the tail end of the movie, where a massive showdown with between Doctor Strange and Kaecilius (played by Mads Mikkelsen) happens.
Long story short, Marvel took a huge risk turning “Doctor Strange” into a live-action film without using their formulaic Marvel superhero movie-making style, but it worked and the studio has emerged triumphant once again. Coupled with the fact that it was brilliantly cast, the film was all things spectacular and more. “Doctor Strange” was thoroughly engaging, with visual effects that do more than just look pretty/psychedelic (read: storytelling) because it pushes the film along. And it was all done with the kind of wizardry that only Marvel Studios will be able to achieve.
It’ll leave you wondering why they didn’t decide to do this sooner. Well done, Marvel. Now, where do we get us one of those “Sling Ring” things?
“Doctor Strange” is set to be released on 27th October 2016.
Psst. Do yourself a favour and watch it in IMAX 3D. Also, don’t forget to stay for the mid and post-credit scenes. The post-credit scene will give you an idea on what to expect for the inevitable “Doctor Strange 2”. You won’t regret it ;)
For more information, visit the movie’s Facebook page.