Woah. So many things in this film seemed incredibly familiar, which is strange (sorry) since I went into this with zero knowledge of the character and having only seen the teaser trailer.
Eschewing a training montage in favour of letting the audience work out that time had passed and skills had been acquired was actually a good move in my opinion. We realise that Strange has learned his knowledge through time and effort rather than having a superpower gifted to him. We also see him taking responsibility for his actions and questioning the ethics of his use of said knowledge.
Now, whether you believe or accept this mystical knowledge is another thing entirely, and it does bring a different dimension to the Marvel superhero/demi-god/mutant dynamic.
The visual effects are truly stunning on multiple occasions – better than any I can instantly recall in the MCU – to such an extent that I actually thought I ought to have seen it in 3D for a better experience. And that’s not something I thought I would ever say out loud.
True, this is also where the familiarity exists – we have seen such things before in Inception and The Matrix for example, and even episodes of Star Trek, but the way they are used here definitely adds to our prior experience rather than merely copying.
It’s in the character-building however where there are ups and downs. Here’s another thing I thought I’d never admit – Benedict Cumberbatch was very good. I didn’t think his John Harrison in Star Trek Into Darkness quite hit the mark (apart from his fighting skills), but Stephen Strange is just the right combination of arrogance, intelligence and later acceptance which is required for his story. The other Benedict in the cast, Benedict Wong (playing a character named Wong, just to confuse matters further) is just plain brilliant and I really hope we get to see him again. But as is to be expected, the magnificent Tilda Swindon is MVP. So good.
On the other side of the infinity stone, Beautiful Mads Mikkelsen was superb but given criminally little to do, which was massively disappointing. And again, Rachel McAdams is capable of a lot more than she was allowed here.
So while I wasn’t as bowled over by this film as others, it was entertaining, visually engrossing, and funny where it felt it could legitimately get away with it. Apart from the cape. That can do one.
Two post-credit sequences, folks.
A version of this post appeared at www.filmdispenser.com