As a child, I spent a lot of time in hospital. The why's and wherefore's are unimportant. What was of value to me then, as now, was the number of books and comics I read to keep boredom at bay. My mum purchased endless amounts of comic's, DC, Atlas and Marvel when the former became the latter, Charlton and Archie. I favoured Marvel back then even though in later years this changed. I had the first Spiderman, was a passionate fan of the Fantastic Four, Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and, the most off-beat, unusual superhero of them all, Doctor Strange.
There has been a modern trend to disrespect Stan Lee with the likes of Alan Moore suggesting Lee had less to do with the creation of the characters and stories featured in the brand, Marvel's, than he, Lee, has made out. All I know is that when I read pure Jack Kirby, that is a story written and drawn by him, the dialogue was not as good as the artwork. My belief is that a great many of the artists wrote the script for Stan Lee then to furnish the script, to burnish the tale as it were. In short, many of the Marvel heroes we now see on screen were a joint creation. Not so Doctor Strange. Our dark arts practitioner is the creation of just one man - Steve Ditko.
So how does one of my all time favourite comic book characters fare in film? Not bad.
Casting Benedict Cumberbatch as Steven Strange was a work of genius. I am sure there are a great many actors who could have cut the mustard as Marvel's sorcerer supreme but none could have spiced that mustard in quite the way our Benedict does.
He not only looks the part he acts the part to perfection. He is arrogant, full of himself, swaggering, rude at times, ego-centric, driven by avarice. In fact, he first appears to be a villain rather than one of the good guys. Echoes of Robert Downey Junior as Tony Stark perhaps but plus five. There are times when irony slips into sarcasm, swift and biting and when it does so that echo reverberates which is a shame. That aside, I like Mister Cumberbatch and I like his performance here.
Rather than following the comic with a male ancient one we have instead the excellent Tilda Swinton. Possibly a PC act to balance the overtly male presence of the cast of characters. Tilda Swinton, like Cumberbatch, a perfect casting. Her looks alone are sufficient to give her the role. Her acting lifts the plot and the character she breathes life into the part. Here we have a woman who stands at a distance from others, someone both intelligent and brave.
The film stick's close to the origin story as first published in the comic book. Brilliant neural surgeon crashes expensive car and in the accident his hands are irreparably broken. Seeking all the medical advice possible he is told he has to live with his damaged digits and try physiotherapy. He finds physio useless then hears of a man who's legs were shattered leaving him a paraplegic yet has miraculously recovered the ability to walk. Going in search of this man he finds him playing basketball. To his amazement, the man runs, jumps and has a natural talent for the game. When Strange questions the man he gives him a long, hard look before saying the name Kamar-Taj. Strange journies east where he finds, after first being thrown out of her presence, the Ancient One where he learns the art of sorcery.
Obviously, no tale of magic and magicians can leave out the bad guys. There are sufficient of those is supply. Mordo, not yet bad but keep watching the film, Kaecilius, like Mordo another from the comic book and of course Dormammu, the entity from the Dark Dimension.
Notable performances, apart from Cumberbatch as Strange and Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One, come courtesy of Mads Dittmann Mikkelsen who's portrayal of Kaecilius is superb.
Yep, if you like your superheroes with a slight twist then you'll like "Doctor Strange." It has the prerequisite action scenes along with a powerhouse of CGI effects that perhaps dazzle a little too much.
One word of advice, do not leave the cinema until ALL the credits have rolled and the film looks set to close. There is more you should see.
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.