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Strange Tales revisited- Movie review


MOVIE REVIEW: WHEN Marvel Comics first branched into the cinematic universe, as an avid comic book nerd, I never believed Doctor Strange would make it to the screen.

Too cosmic. Too multi-dimensional. Too out there. But most significantly, too difficult to conceive and reproduce on screen.

What a writer can imagine and an artist can render differ wildly from what can be shown on the screen, and given the almighty botch DC made with one of its own cosmic heroes - the Green Lantern - I was as pensive as excited at the prospect of Doctor Strange's arrival in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

But then, let's be honest. What DC routinely botches in translating its heroes to the screen, Marvel pretty much nails, every time, with even its lesser known titles. Case in point: Guardians of the Galaxy.

So if you're a fan of the super hero genre, read on. If not, thanks for stopping by. 

I picked up a random copy of Strange Tales about four decades ago. Half the book was about Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. - he wasn't even the director yet - and the other half was about Doctor Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts.

Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. were Marvel's comic answers to the cinema's James Bond and TV's The Man From U.N.C.L.E. But Doctor Strange? By the hoary hosts of Hoggoth, I'd never seen anything like this.

This wasn't Captain America, Iron Man or even the Asgardian son of Odin, Thor. This wasn't someone dealing with a threat that could be settled with a shield, a repulsor ray or a hammer. This was a superlative surgeon, his hands ruined in a car accident, setting off ultimately seeking enlightenment and becoming Earth's Sorcere Supreme. 

He protects the Earth from demons and nefarious critters trying to get at this planet through multi dimensions, none more threatening than the Dread Dormammu. And he has to use his sorcery spells, his wits and some handy martial arts skills.

My first delight when this project was announced was the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch. His modern day Sherlock Holmes is such a compelling take on the character. I loved him in The Imitation Game and as the "villain" in Star Trek Into Darkness. He can make you barrack for any character, no matter how socially inept, rude or, shall we say, different.

Throw in Mads Mikkelsen as the misguided Kaecilius - how good was he as Le Chiffre in Daniel Craig's first Bond outing, Casino Royale? - and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Baron Mordo and this is off to a flyer.

Had my reservations about Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One, the tutor who guides Stephen Strange on his journey, but only because I bristle when there's some perceived "political correctness" in the casting. In the comics, the Ancient One is a man.

Oh well. Swinton carries it off with ease, even though the character is even more multi-layered than it at first appears.

And Rachel McAdams? I've loved her in everything she's done, pretty much, even though she was SO wonderfully aggravating in Woody Allen's highly under-rated Midnight in Paris.

Any fears, doubts, reservations this longtime Doctor Strange devotee entered the cinema with were dispelled very quickly as the origin tale smoothly unfolded.

The special effects - and this style of movie involves a zillion dollars worth of effects - were seamless, brilliant and so much a part of the storytelling.

Yet at no point did they get in the way of the story. They were intrinsic to it. Like magic.

Yeah. I loved it and you can go with no prior knowledge of the character. It's all there on the screen, as it should be. And always with that trademark Marvel humour.

I'd be stunned if Cher, Beyonce and Bono didn't all love it too.

FOR crying out loud though, how many Marvel movies have you attended?

DO NOT LEAVE before the closing credits are over. Marvel always gives you something for future reference.

Yes, there's a mid-credits sequence which itself is well worth the wait and opens the door for Doctor Strange's entry into the mainstream Marvel Universe.

But that's the trick for new players. Don't leave after that.

Stick around til the credits are completely done. Because there's a seriously important finale, at the finale.

RATING: I'll go and see it again tonight.

Oct 28

Content, unless otherwise indicated, is © copyright Boti Nagy.