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terça-feira, 25 de outubro de 2016

Benedict Cumberbatch's witty, trippy Doctor Strange will turn your world upside down - review


    
Doctor Strange Official Trailer 2Play!02:21

Doctor Strange offers the surprising spectacle of watchingBenedict Cumberbatch lose his mind. From Sherlock Holmesto Alan Turing, his characters until now have been famous rationalists, men of hard deduction and science. And so, at first, is Stephen Strange, the character unveiled by Marvel Comics artist Steve Ditko back in 1963, and a cult figure only now joining their other big-screen protagonists.
Strange starts out as a brilliant surgeon, and the toast of the New York, until a car accident nearly kills him. Left with mangled hands, he forsakes medicine for magic, in a development which surprises no one more than himself.
For Cumberbatch, above all, this foray into the Marvel universe is a huge and expensive roll of the dice. Thankfully, amid all the film’s wacky-trippy bending of space and time, he manages to steer an ideal path – taking the role seriously but allowing himself to be flummoxed by it, wittily traumatised and taken off-guard.
Never as smug as his Sherlock, Strange thinks he’s funnier than he is – this is actually the film’s best joke, especially when a librarian-mystic called Wong (perfectly, Benedict Wong) is at the receiving end of his quips. Pulling the rug out from under Cumberbatch’s cruise-controlled thespy authority as often as possible, the film finds a smart way to rescue him from his own hype, and thereby helps him live up to it all over again.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange
Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange
The way expectations mount up for any Marvel project, it’s not enough for the various duelling sorcerers who emerge in this box-fresh franchise to conjure swords, shields and javelins out of thin air. We need to be shown the astral plane – essentially so that Strange grasps the limits of his reality up to this point. And when we’re taken there, we’re practically thrown out of our seats.
Imagine Cumberbatch staring at his hands, which sprout mini-hands from each finger, then further mini-hands from there, and so on. Imagine a bottomless mise-en-abyme in which we’re diving constantly into his pupils; imagine his  face as the landscape a rollercoaster is tumbling into. Many more surreal coups bubble up from whatever loony pit these came from.
A mind-bending scene from Marvel's Doctor Strange
A mind-bending scene from Marvel's Doctor Strange
The vortex into which he’s pulled, as the film’s second act begins, is something like the Star Gate sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey, albeit with every last yottabyte of 2016 effects wizardry flung at it. When we’re brought back to earth, it’s with an almighty bump.
Strange still has a lot to learn. No one’s conventional science has been able to help; he’s driven away his best friend and erstwhile lover (Rachel McAdams) with brutal rage.
Getting wind of a secret treatment in Nepal, he flies there, bedraggled and desperate, and a magician called Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor, all sage suspicion) admits him to the elite temple where this re-education can begin.
Stephen’s mentor is the Ancient One, a figure imagined by Ditko as not only conspicuously old, but bearded, male and Asian. Tilda Swinton, of course, is none of these things. She’s an alien. With her head shaved, she collapses all known genetic boundaries, looking more like one of those things that abducted Christopher Walken in Communion.
Marvel mania as Benedict Cumberbatch hits Comic-ConPlay!01:38
It’s more a perfect visitation than a performance, smiley and imperturbable. Her training methods include dumping Stephen without warning on the summit of Mount Everest and demanding he open a teleportation gate before he freezes to death.
Strange has to abandon one set of rigid beliefs and open himself up to a new dimension of the possible. His film keeps pace. Perhaps the strangest aspect of Doctor Strange is how non-Marvelly it manages to feel.
With its sombre colour palette, whispery Eastern mysticism and dry stabs of comedy, Scott Derrickson’s blockbuster stands apart while feeling naggingly similar to something else – specifically, as if greatest hits from the oeuvre of Christopher Nolan had been curated and put on shuffle. There’s a hint of The Prestige, a whole medley of Ra’s al Ghul’s icy tuition techniques from Batman Begins.
Tilda Swinton and Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange
Tilda Swinton and Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange
Mostly, though, you’ll be thinking of Inception, for the darting across parallel planes, the air of a competitive heist that great minds are plotting against each other, and the showcased sequences, dizzying and far more purposeful here, where the axis of a whole city tilts suddenly and turns ceilings into floors, or both into walls.
Villains and heroes prove unstable throughout. Mads Mikkelsen is Kaecilius, an apostate with scorched eyes who’s up to something or other. When he and the Ancient One come to blows, they transform the whole of Manhattan into a 3D MC Escher painting – absolutely worth beholding in 3D, by the way – with cars dropping off the edge of cliffs and buildings flaunting their innards.
 Mads Mikkelsen
 Mads Mikkelsen
There’s so much going on in these showstoppers that your attention gets pulled to every corner of the screen at once – sometimes yanked right off the page. The more static and plotty parts of the film suffer by comparison. Too long a stretch in the middle is spent tussling inside a dingily-lit Bleecker Street sanctum where Kaecilius and Strange first meet.
Ejiofor’s stern, cagey turn as Mordo is useful ballast, but it’s also unfinished business. By the finale – immensely satisfying both conceptually and visually, if never quite emotionally – Strange looks like he’s figured out the rules of this demented new game and just won his first round.
Next time, the whole board won’t simply be turned upside down, but transfigured into a helix in 4D, or something equally bedazzling, just for the hell of it.

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