Karl Puschmann is an entertainment writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Doctor Strange has the cure for superhero fatigue

If you were planning on skipping Doctor Strange, don't. The film is the latest entry in Marvel's intertwined, interconnected "cinematic universe" and you're probably already falling asleep in your coffee just at the thought of it.

Look, I get it. Marvel spit these things out with all the ruthless efficiency and monotonous regularity of a German automotive factory so you can be forgiven for feeling exhausted. Over it. Done.

There's only so many times you can watch a super man, super men or super team, save the world before you start thinking there must be more to movies than this.

Nope!

Lol. I'm joking of course. There's plenty of other stuff to see at the cinema. Some quick picks would include Woody Allen's latest Café Society, a fun if conventional Woody Allen rom-com.

The new crime thriller Hell or High Water has stolen rave reviews from the critics. And it gets no more blockbuster than Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, the latest action flick to feature Tom Cruise running very fast while stuff blows up around him.

But I don't think you should see any of those this weekend. Nope. I think you should see Doctor Strange. A surprising thing to find myself saying because I wasn't really all that jazzed about seeing it.

While I do love this stuff there's just been so, so much of it in the past few years that it was hard to muster up the enthusiasm. You could say I had a bad case of superhero fatigue.

Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) (left) and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) in Marvel's latest offering.
Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) (left) and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) in Marvel's latest offering.

Marvel pump out two of these things a year and their nemesis DC is attempting to do likewise. They're busy creating a dark, gritty and, let's face it, pretty terrible thus far, cinematic universe around Superman, Batman and their rogue's gallery of villains.

There's also all the superhero films from the wildly erratic 20th Century Fox who got it awesomely right with Deadpool, fairly spot on with the rebooted X-Men series and woefully wrong with a gritty Fantastic Four.

And let's not forget about Sony, home of the continually rebooting Spider-Man movies. Although they appear to have worked out some deal with Marvel as Spidey had a scene stealing cameo in the otherwise overblown Captain America: Civil War earlier this year.

But even if you're a die hard, undies-on-the-outside, superhero fan, that's a lot of superhero action to not only get invested in, but also shell out for.

There's a reason the saying doesn't go, "a glut makes the heart grow fonder".

On paper Doctor Strange sounds entirely missable. It's another in a long line of superhero origin stories about a rich, white male character who gets special powers and has to fight a big alien thing at the end to save the day.

Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Doctor Stephen Strange. Photo / Jay Maidment
Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Doctor Stephen Strange. Photo / Jay Maidment

The story is really good, there's plenty of slick action, great soundtrack and more than enough off-the-cuff quips to keep you chuckling into your popcorn. So far, so Marvel.

But what makes it a must see is that it's one of those rare films where the special effects truly deserve the title.

Despite the abundance of flicks attempting to dazzle you with all their computer-made movie magic, hardly any leave you truly gobsmacked by their visuals.

But there are scenes in this movie that are just mind-bendingly incredible. The story deals with a lot of metaphysical, multi-dimensional mumbo jumbo that, to its credit, it does a fine job of making understandable and easily digestible.

The upshot of all the jibber-jabber about multiverses and parallel dimensions is that you get incredible and bizarre action sequences that are unlike anything you've seen before.

Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One and Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange.
Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One and Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange.

When Stephen Strange is shown the mysteries of life, the universe and everything for the first time it's an excuse for a mind-warping, kaleidoscopic cinematic acid trip that takes the very best ideas of surrealists Salvador Dali and M.C Escher and mashes them with the psychedelic eye candy of Disney's Fantasia and every classic 60s LSD cliche going. It's truly a wild ride.

Later, packed city streets twist and turn in on themselves, rotating in ways that don't make sense but look perfectly sensible. Characters chase and fight each other on different planes as the rooms and hallways they're in slip, slide and fall away. The closest comparison here would be Inception, but this takes things to a whole new level of wow.

Doctor Strange is the definition of a big screen film. The bigger, the better. So treat yourself and spend the extra couple of bucks for IMAX 3D. It's a head trip with no hangover.

The movie may be about a sorcerer but the real magic of Doctor Strange is how it makes all those superhero blues just vanish into thin air.

- NZ Herald

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