This is the kind of action film you get when you hire great actors and give them a chance to imbue complex characters. I can’t say if it is the best in the Marvel series yet, but it is way up there as a movie on its own and has plenty to sate the senses. Sure it is a bit Inception and a bit The Matrix, but they also found the perfect fit of arrogance and intelligence in Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) for the title role. In addition Tilda Swinton (A Bigger Splash) brings just the right amount of other-worldliness and precision to her role as his mentor.
The rest of the new and motley crew, from Chiwetel Ejiofor (Z for Zachariah) to Mads Mikkelsen (Spectre) to Benedict Wong (The Martian), each brought their A game, though they were all just a little cliche… but only a little. Mikkelsen, more than most, had very little explanation for his motivation, which made him a weak adversary. We only know him to want destruction for descruction’s sake, regardless of his stated reasons which make little sense. Ejiofor, as always, has strong presence, but this was a reprisal of his Serenity role in many ways. That doesn’t make it a bad thing for this movie, but I’d like to have seen him do something new.
Rachel McAdams (Spotlight) probably has the most thankless role of the tale. She is there simply as a foil and assistant to Strange. Hopefully she will get more to do in the sequel.
Scott Derrikson did fine directing the piece. He keeps the histrionics to a minimum and the pacing solid. The script he co-wrote is another matter. Much like Sinister, which he co-wrote with previous collaborator Cargill, there are some shortcuts in understanding that are cleverly glossed, but which still raised my eyebrows before I was willing to move on. Adding Prometheus writer Spaihts to their mix did none of them, or us, any favors. The eye candy and the scope of the story will keep you distracted enough during the story to have fun, but as this is a cerebral tale, once you start thinking about it you’ll notice where the carpet is thin. Not enough to ruin the story, but perhaps just enough to keep it from being the best of the Marvels yet.
However you slice it, there is some great rollicking fun and another solid origin tale that pushes the current cycle forward. And, in case for some reason you are still not staying for the tags, there are two of them… both essential, so hang out through the credits.