DOCTOR STRANGE is a patchwork quilt of a Marvel movie. Pleasant enough to watch, but undeserving of a second view, in which almost every character, action sequence or funny line echoes another film, and the only originality comes not from the central character but from Tilda Swinton. It's visually arresting but emotionally hollow mid-tier Marvel of a kind that - with a release calendar chock full of B-grade comic book characters - I have become rather bored by.
As with IRON MAN, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a rich materialistic egotistical genius brought low by a severe accident, who supplements his physical healing process with "super powers". As with SHERLOCK, Strange has a perfect memory and a fondness for being right. As with StarChild, Strange has a fondness for cheesy seventies hits. Strange was a successful but cocky surgeon who texts while driving and ends up in an horrific car crash that renders his hands unfit for surgery. In desperation, he journeys to Nepal where he finds a mystical Jedi Master, sorry, Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), who puts him through a training regime straight out of EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. I kid you not, there's even a "judge me by my size, do you" sequence. It turns out that, quelle surprise, Strange has a rare aptitude for astral projection and drawing energy from other dimensions of the multiverse to cast magic spells. He even gets a cool gadget that allows his to reverse time. (Do you think that will be significant?!) He also gets a HARRY POTTER style set of magical gadgets, including a sentient cloak that actually reminded me a bit of Terry Pratchett's luggage. So armed, he goes off to fight the Ancient One's former pupil turned evil villain (Mads Mikkelsen) who wants to open Earth up to an eviller villain whose name sounds like Dormouse. Oh yes, I forgot that Strange has an ex-girlfriend played by Rachel McAdams who's also a surgeon but she has nothing to do but simper. He also has sidekicks at his zen school played by Chiwetel Ejiofor and Benedict Wong who exist to show a moral centre and comic relief respectively.
So the plot's a bit hokey and more than a bit derivative. Added to this we have admittedly funny moments that feel as though they were scripted for Robert Downey Junior's IRON MAN. And Benedict Cumberbatch never really feels like a charismatic new Marvel hero in the way that, say, the cast of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY were charming and fun to be around. The only reasons to watch this film are Tilda Swinton and the rich art design of the asian sets, complete with museum relics and luxuriant architecture. The sub-Christopher Nolan city-bending CGI is thankfully used rather sparingly.
DOCTOR STRANGE has a running time of 115 minutes and is rated PG-13. The movie goes on release on October 25th in the UK and Ireland; on October 26th in Taiwan, Belgium, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Italy, South Korea, Philippines and Poland; on October 27th in Australia, Germany, Denmark, Greece, Croatia, Indonesia, Moldova, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore and Thailand; on October 28th in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Denmark, Estonia, Spain, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Mexico, Sweden, Ukraine and Vietnam; on October 31st in Russia; on November 2nd in Egypt; on November 3rd in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Hungary, Israel, Cambodia, Republic of Macedonia, Portugal and Slovakia; on November 4th in Bulgaria, Canada, China, India, Sri Lanka, Latvia, Norway, Romania, Turkey, the USA and South Africa; on November 10th in Serbia; on November 24th in Argentina and on January 27th in Japan.