by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor
I very rarely get to go to the cinema anymore, at first it was the cost that held me back, but more recently it is the the lack of anyone to go with. I hate going to the cinema on my own, I am not certain why, but I expect it is because going to the cinema is supposed to be a shared experience and I consider everyone else in the room to be an annoyance, so I need to bring someone less annoying with me.
I am married, but unfortunately to someone who thinks that a good film involves me being scared senseless and not being able to sleep for a week, but who also considers the idea of a ‘comic book’ film to be something slightly less palatable than manure. However in the last year I have discovered the benefit of being married, in my case, the 6 year old. As an utter coward I have mysteriously managed to raise a child who is phased only by two things, gushing blood and people kissing. So I was fairly confident that neither would be in great supply in this film.
That was my first mistake.
This is a ‘12a’ in the UK, which means that no children under the age of 12 can go unaccompanied, but anyone can go with an adult. I really should have thought about the fact that he was an MD in the beginning and there was quite a bit of blood to start with. I snuck the little one into see this film today while my wife was at work and unable to object.
That was my second mistake.
I have not only raised a child who is completely fearless about anything she sees on screen, I have also raised a child who is utterly incapable of lying and even worse, incapable of not telling both of her parents absolutely everything, especially if one of us has told her ‘don’t tell your mother.’
So as we pick my wife up from work today, the little sprog pipes up almost instantly and I braced myself for her telling on me that I had subjected her to a film full of blood, but what I got was: ‘I had sausages for lunch and we saw a strange doctor in the cinema, and he had a cape that strangled bad guys and it was really funny!’
Ironically, the one throw away gag in the film was not only the part that my daughter loved the most, I expect it will be the one moment that most people remember about the film later on. Bizarrely as a Doctor Strange fan in the comic books, his cloak is about the only thing that I have never really paid attention to, but it did rather steal the show.
I have pretty much let the cat out of the bag there, I have to admit that I am utterly biased when it comes to the ‘strange doctor’, he is one of the few early Marvel characters whose original comics I can actually read. It is probably Ditko’s art that saves that series for me, and that art crosses over so well into the medium of film. This film is a trip, a mind bending, brain twisting drug fuelled excursion into other dimensions, crossed with Inception. That for me is probably the best and worst part about this film. If Inception had never existed and I had never seen skyscrapers being twisted and folded in half, then the events of this film would have been groundbreaking however it feels a bit regurgitated, but like Spinal Tap turned up to 11. This takes what Inception did, and drags it out for what feels like half the film as New York city is bent and twisted into shapes that would have screwed with M. C. Escher’s mind.
This film hits all the beats, very much in the same way that the first Iron Man film did. You get the full origin story of the arrogant doctor, a master of his profession, the car crash that maims his hands and then his trek into the mystic east to find a cure for his broken body, only to discover that what he wants to fix is no longer important.
Where it differs so much from the original comic’s is (excluding irrelevancies like race and gender of supporting characters) is the much improved use of Baron Mordo, or Karl Mordo as he is known in this film. Gone is the scheming plotting moron from the comics, the one who like Dick Dastardly tries crazy schemes to beat his arch enemy and in its place is a much better considered, heroic character who helps rather than hinders Doctor Strange.
For me the casting in the film is brilliant. Cumberbatch is and has always been made to play this character, although I wish he had used more of his natural accent than he did here. Yes I know I am British and he is British and the character is American, but whenever that man does strong accents he always seems to hold something back, as it if the accent is more important than the acting. Fear not, this is not another Sean Connery doing a Scottish/Russian accent in the Hunt for Red October, Benedict’s accent is perfect throughout, however I fear we lost a bit of the character in order for that perfection.
Mads Mikkelsen has been a favourite actor of mine since I saw him in Casino Royal and he does not disappoint here for a moment, even with the dramatic eye make up he must have been subjected to daily. While he doesn’t have the presence or the voice to compete with a character like Lee Pace’s Ronan the Accuser, he brings a quiet malevolence to the character and makes me wish Marvel had cast him as Malekith.
In fact, I think we could declare this Marvel’s first ‘British’ film. I know that they have been talking about doing a Captain Britain film, and that The Dark World as set in Greenwich, London, but this film’s entire cast is British, with a Canadian and a Dane thrown in for good measure. In fact this film is so British I went to school with Baron Mordo (no seriously, I kid you not, I did a play with Chiwetel back in 1994…) It made me feel right at home watching this film, but I do wonder how that will play with the American audience. Just because Benedict’s accent can fool me, doesn’t mean it will work for people who hear a real version of that accent every day.
This film worked for me on pretty much every level, and trust me this film has lots of levels. The use of magic was dramatic, but didn’t feel silly, it wasn’t Harry Potter, no one was going around expelliarmusing their way around the set. They chose to take the magic in a more physical, superheroic way, and it really worked. They left so many references in the film for fans to pick up, I cannot wait to get the DVD and have a really good look at some of those artefacts in the sanctums, but most importantly they didn’t make them so complicated as to confuse a new audience.
My only concerns about this film is trying to sell it to the people who have loved the Avengers. It is more complicated, full of ‘serious’ actors and lacking in the ‘buddy’ elements that have worked so well for Iron Man/Rhodey or Thor/Loki. What it does have is incredible special effects, enough humorous moments to lift some of the more heavy moments and probably the best ‘gotcha’ moment I have seen in a film since the Usual Suspects.
And my 6 year old loved it, I cannot give it higher praise.