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Doctor Strange review by Rashid Irani: Curiouser and curiouser

The plot is just too trippy; the CGI looks dated. All in all, this origin tale is an underwhelming Marvel effort.

movie reviews Updated: Nov 04, 2016 15:27 IST
Rashid Irani
In his goatee and cloak, Benedict Cumberbatch makes for a fetching saviour of humanity, but the plot just doesn’t hold up.
In his goatee and cloak, Benedict Cumberbatch makes for a fetching saviour of humanity, but the plot just doesn’t hold up.

DOCTOR STRANGE

Direction: Scott Derrickson

Actors: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams

Rating: 2.5 / 5

The latest star in Marvel’s ever-expanding cinematic universe is a lesser-known comic book superhero and, as visual spectacle, Doctor Strange is quite impressive. But the plot of this origin tale is just a tad too trippy, and the effects, derivative — think the digital manipulation of The Matrix trilogy or Inception.

Here’s the setup: One of the world’s top neurosurgeons (though you wouldn’t guess it from the risible Operating Theatre scenes) embarks on a quest for a miracle cure following a car accident that limits the use of his hands.

The egotistical protagonist (Benedict Cumberbatch) is introduced to an androgynous mystic (the ever-versatile Tilda Swinton). From then on, stuff gets really weird as the surgeon-turned-sorcerer harnesses his newfound magical prowess to combat the dark forces that threaten to destroy the planet.

Tilda Swinton is effective as an androgynous mystic, but the ponderous dialogue holds her back. Here’s a sampler: ‘You are a man looking at the world through a keyhole. You’ve spent your life trying to widen it.’ What?

Read: Why Swinton’s casting as the Ancient One had some crying racism

Focusing all his attention on formulaic action set pieces, director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) neglects to develop any potential emotional underpinnings and CGI fatigue quickly sets in. After all, how many times can you watch bustling cityscapes fold in upon themselves and characters dart between alternate dimensions?

The tale is also clogged with reams of expository mumbo-jumbo and portentous dialogue such as this bit of advice offered to the former medic, “You are a man looking at the world through a keyhole. You’ve spent your life trying to widen it”. What??!

Sporting a goatee and a levitating cloak, Benedict Cumberbatch makes for a charismatic saviour of humanity. Rachel McAdams is notable as a fellow surgeon-cum-love interest.

Read: How Cumberbatch got in shape for Doctor Strange

Chiwetel Ejiofor (the do-gooder protégé), Mads Mikkelsen (the mandatory villain) and Benedict Wong (a librarian tasked with safeguarding sacred Sanskrit texts) are saddled with thankless supporting roles. As always, there is a cheeky cameo by Stan Lee, this time as a bus passenger engrossed in a tome by Aldous Huxley.

All in all, Doctor Strange is a nifty but underwhelming panel-to-screen Marvel adaptation.

Watch the trailer for Doctor Strange