Marvel/Disney continues its current MO of dredging up lesser known superheroes for blockbuster treatment. Doctor Strange purports to be a unique take on the creaking genre with its Harry-Potter-esque hero discarding his muggle roots for a band of interdimensional conjurors tasked with defending Earth against ‘dark forces’. But don’t be fooled by the smoke and mirrors – beneath the shiny coat of paint is a vanilla origin story.
The main attraction is the special effects; it does make for a wild ride with its awe-inducing Escher-inspired cityscape origami. It’s all very cool, but congruity is stretched to breaking point. What exactly are the limits of these seemingly all-powerful matter-reshaping, time-bending superbeings (why don’t they just drop buildings on each other’s heads)? The film does benefit from a star-studded cast. Cumberbatch’s beguiling screen presence makes for a smart, witty Doctor (think Sherlock). Tilda Swinton sparkles as the Ancient One, while Chiwetel Ejifor and Rachel McAdams are mostly wasted in sidekick roles and Mads Mikkelsen does his trusty bad-guy thing.
Despite Strange’s mostly unremarkable origin tale, the finale is refreshingly subversive, promoting brains over brawn. Marvel’s hot streak remains unbroken, but this year’s Civil War is a markedly superior entry in the canon.