This was a film I was a bit hesitant on… Not because of Benedict or the cast or the ramifications of placement in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but just because it was Doctor Strange. Now granted, those were the same feelings I had about the original “Iron Man” back in 2008, the film which of course kicked off Phase One… Why? ‘B’ tier character on the big screen.
For all the magic that Marvel has woven over the last eight years, there is bound to be a hiccup at some point (or, as it known in geekdom circles… a DC-like event) however this psychedelic romp through the inner-cosmos wasn’t it. Marvel has made a great success of their ‘B’ Tier line-up while stalwarts such as X-Men, The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man (until this lastest re-boot of the re-boot) have suffered… but this was Doctor Strange. For many moons, Johnny Depp was penciled in as “negotiating” for the title role, however I think Benedict and his Cumberbitches did an excellent job bringing the vivid and resourceful Sorcerer to brilliant Technicolor as did the well-rounded supporting cast who shine beyond the sometimes cardboard dialogue (and No, I don’t have a problem with the Ancient One being a Celtic woman).
The film embodies the acid-tripping, Beatlesesque mind expanding world of the late 1960’s that Doctor Strange traveled in the pages of “Strange Tales” (alongside Bondian 60’s Icon Nick Fury) and that is what makes it work. Sure, it could have been Marvel invades Hogwarts and been just terrible, but luckily for us there is still some originality coursing through Marvel Films (even if none of it rubs off on the X-Men Fox franchise). Updated for modern times, little is lost in translation which is a hallmark of the greater MCU as the script is fluid combining great elements of the visual as well as the subtly comedic (even if a spot or two seemed a bit forced).
Now, I’m a little off put by the inner MCU timeline as Stephen Strange was previously referred to in “The Winter Soldier” yet the events of the film unfold AFTER Civil War… oh well. It’s also good to know, thanks to the dual post credit scenes *Semi-Spoiler Alert* that the Sorcerer Supreme will be making multiple future appearances other than just the forthcoming Avengers Super-Duper-Super Friends sequels of Avengers 3 & 4 or “Infinity War” also known as “How to Snuff Out DC and kick them while their down”.
See it in 3D. Popcorn, SnoCaps and no bathroom breaks!
And no matter what anyone tells you, that is the cold hard fact of this film. As the second to last place setting for next summer’s ‘Avengers’ superhero team-up flick, ‘Thor’ does nicely.
Much in the style of ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ (Damn, I hate that sub-title), the story touches greatly upon the mythos of the title character (obviously more deeply based in Norse mythology) and updates it accordingly. Luckily in this case, for all the simplicity in the story development and character set-up, Kenneth Branagh was at the helm and worked the proper amount of development into both the story and the primary characters.
The script, obviously having a major mythic back-story to draw from, mixing it with the established comic lore and then adding the S.H.I.E.L.D. element and place setting actually moves fairly well. Yes, there are a few slower parts, but this is Norse mythology directed by Kenneth Branagh and it ain’t all gonna’ be on rocket propelled roller-skates. However, this is a Marvel comic book film directed by Kenneth Branagh and you can’t really go wrong. With cast members such as Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman you expect a good turn and you certainly get it. A few of the characters are a bit cardboard but the actors do well to keep them believable. Chris Hemsworth fits quite well behind the hammer, playing both sides of the egotistical God of Thunder as well as anyone could play an egotistical God of Thunder. If there was one complaint, much like a Skywalker turned Vader in Episode III, the turn from one side to the other as Thor makes his heroic choice was a bit rushed. Obviously, the clock was ticking and the story needed to move into Act III, but… As a place setting for the forthcoming ‘Avengers’ (and if you saw the post end credits teaser scene, a great unknown lead in for Captain America) this film performs and does so far better than Iron Man 2 (whose exit teaser was a place setting for this film). As a stand alone film about Marvel’s Thunder God, it exceeds expectations.
Not quite Comic Book epic, but definitely taking you for the ride. Bring popcorn and no bathroom breaks.