Year Released: 2016
Directed by: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor
(Pg-13, 130 min.)
Genre: Action and Adventure, Science Fiction and Fantasy
“The Reality you know is one of many.” The Ancient One
Luke Skywalker meets Sherlock Holmes, or maybe better yet, Dr. House. The latest Marvel rollout is a sparkling package of fast-paced adventure that never stops for a breath. It doesn’t so much introduce its titular hero as propel him toward us like a fastball careening through time and space.
Benjamin Cumberbatch is made for the role of the arrogant loner, a superb neurosurgeon whose skill is second only to his unmasked arrogance. He donned this same arrogance somewhat reluctantly in Masterpiece Theater’s Sherlock's modern day London, and softened it a bit behind his social awkwardness in The Imitation Game, the story of enigma code breaker Alan Turing. But Cumberbatch’s Dr. Strange delights in his smug superiority, wearing it like a second skin.
In the operating theater he is Walter Mitty come to life, forgoing the technology to lead him to an embedded bullet, his freehand retrieval saving critical minutes and the life of his patient. He’s the kind of guy whose idea of a date is an invitation to his own lecture, maybe with a few drinks later reserved for praising its brilliance.
All this changes on a mountain curve, the ensuing crash sparing his life, but not his priceless hands. No number of surgeries can bring back their magic touch. Finally he seeks a cure at a mystical compound in Nepal.
Here we are reminded of another Marvel character, Thor, whose own arrogance leads to him to be stripped of his standing and power and exiled upon earth. Just as Thor has to be humiliated to regain his status, so too with Dr. Strange.
He gets his comeuppance from the ancient one, a very bald Tilda Swinton decked out in ghostly garb, who gets about as much respect as her corresponding Yoda did from the young Luke Skywalker. She has to literally throw Strange out of his skin to shock him into some respect, and he then becomes a very good student of the mystic arts. As Yoda would say, “The force is very strong in him,” but does Dr. Strange have the will to use his new powers to guard the earth, or will be, as others before him, desire it for his own selfish purposes?
All in all, a involving spectacle, but by Marvel standards, this is the second string. Strange himself has Iron Man’s arrogance and skill, but his stoic reserve cannot compete with Tony Stark’s unabashed American warmth and ingenuity. Strange is a bit of a cold Brit, and we never quite warm up to him.
And the mysticism gets a bit overdone, too. A little too much mumbo jumbo and CGI for my taste.
And where is the fun here? Everyone is so terribly serious and earnest. Can’t they have a little fun while saving the planet? Or at least toss off a few good lines along the way?
You will certainly be entertained throughout the 2 plus hour film that thanks to disciplined cuts and pacing, seems to fly along. But will it play all over in your head once you leave the theater, and will you long for the sequel(s) they obviously intend to make in the same way you did for Iron Man, Captain America or The Avengers? Somehow, I don’t think so.
Dr. Strange hails from London and he learns the mystic arts in Nepal. Let’s combine the two and give him a signature cocktail that reflects both.
Our Corpse Reviver Cocktail hints at mystic powers and comes from London. And with 4 different liquors, it looks to be pretty potent as well.
Corpse Reviver Cocktail Recipe
1 ounce gin
1 ounce Lillet
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 ounce Cointreau
1 drop absinthe or pastis
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker; fill with ice and shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.