Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong and Mads Mikkelsen
Warning: Major Spoilers (but this has been out for several weeks so I’m assuming most of you will have seen it!)
First up, the positives: visually, the film is stunning and has the most memorable special effects I’ve ever seen in a Marvel film. The direction was superb, particularly in the mind-bending Mirror-realm segments. The acting was excellent as well, with Benedict Cumberbatch nailing both the arrogant, slightly unlikeable Doctor and the hero you end up rooting for in the second half (the transition in Strange’s personality is both believable and well executed). Rachel McAdams was one of the better love interests Marvel has given us (putting both Gwyneth Paltrow and Natalie Portman’s bland attempts to shame) being both believable, likeable and a important character in her own right. Chiwetel Ejiofor shines as Mordo, Strange’s mentor/friend/ally destined to become his nemesis (as comic-book fans well know), Benedict Wong and Tilda Swinton are excellent supporting characters and Mads Mikkelsen makes the most of his thankless role as yet another forgettable Marvel villain in Sorcerer Caecilius. The only major downside of the production was the soundtrack, which is very workmanlike and forgettable when it really should be complementing the sense of wonder the visuals are providing – especially disappointing from Michael Giacchino (who scored the Incredibles, which has a great soundtrack, so we know he could have done better).
I won’t go into detail about the film’s plot (mainly because AGAIN its something we’ve seen before in Marvel’s origin stories – Guy struggles with adverse circumstances, guy becomes a hero, underdeveloped villain has seemingly overcomeable advantage, hero’s mentor/parent dies/hero defeats villain rather easily/hero gets girl – seriously – get some new fucking ideas Marvel! At the very least give us a decent villain who doesn’t lose the final confrontation in 2 mins for once!!!!) Caecilius was the latest in a line of one-note villains played by talented actors who don’t get enough screen time (seriously, aside from , Magneto, Loki and the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy’s villains when have any Marvel villains ever gotten a decent amount of screen-time and good writing backing them up???)
Fortunately Dormammu was a step-up as a villain, despite his 5 mins of screen time, Benedict Cumberbatch voicing the villainous entity lent him a feeling of sheer power and malovence that Marvel villains almost always fail to achieve. Hopefully he will return in the sequel (or maybe be a more prominent villain in phase 4 once Thanos is dealt with? He was dealt with rather easily – but it was refreshing that the hero had to bargain for Earth’s safety rather than fight because Dormammu was too powerful to defeat outright – and only lost because of Strange’s infinity stone.
As yes, the Eye of Agamotto is officially the Time Stone. Five down, one to go, and if the comics are an indicator, the Soul Stone will show up in Guardians 2. I’ll say this for Marvel, they are building up Infinity War remarkably well… don’t blow it now guys. Also shown were two post-credit scenes, one with Strange and Thor joining forces (presumably setting up the events of Thor:Ragnarok) and the other revealing the villain for the second film (surprise! Not really. Its Mordo, whose shift from hero to villain seemed a bit abrupt to me – i’d rather see him slowly be corrupted in film 2 and then be the villain in a third film, but I doubt that’s what Marvel has planned). The Thor scene was brilliant, fortunately featuring a return to the lightness that makes Thor such a fun character to watch.
Overall, a very fun and enjoyable Marvel film with dazzling visuals and a winning turn from Cumberbatch, plus the best post-credits scene Marvel’s given us in years. Unfortunately plot-wise, we’ve seen it all before, and Mads Mikkelsen is the latest great actor to be wasted in a thankless role as an under-used villain (following Ben Kingsley, Christopher Eccleston, Lee Pace etc.) hopefully Mordo will avoid that fate in the inevitable sequel.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
So for those interested on my list of Superhero films in 2016 this would come fourth, behind Deadpool and X-Men: Apocalypse but ahead of Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. Marvel has officially won 4-0 in 2016 (thank god DC has a far better run on TV – its getting creamed at the cinema – hopefully Wonder Woman and Justice league can save them!) Despite their success, my patience with Marvel playing it safe is running low – if Black Panther ends up being another bloody origin story with the same plot and a forgettable villain I’m going to explode.