I should have realized. I should have known. I should have guessed … what with me being the host of the San Diego Comic Con Superhero Kung Fu Extravaganza and all. But I am happy to say I didn’t, so I was delighted to discover that Doctor Strange, the newest comic book adventure from Marvel/Disney Land is the best live action kung fu movie since … well, since who knows when.
Had they put the cast credits up top, I might’ve gotten a clue from the inclusion of the name Scott Adkins, one of the great unsung, underappreciated martial arts actors today — previously relegated to fine work in a slew of B movies, but here given center stage as villain Mads Mikkelsen’s most violent enforcer.
But instead, Marvel introduced its latest phase of films with a spanking new 3-D logo (which, sad to say, remains the best 3-D effect in the film) and, finally, some non-generic music, supplied by the great Michael Giacchino, who first reached my ears scoring some of the best Pixar offerings (the depth of talent in the mouse house gets deeper and richer by the nano-second).
Adkins, Mikkelsen, and the rest of the exceptional cast are decently aided by stunt coordinator James M. Churchman (Ant-Man) and fight coordinator Jonathan Eusebio (John Wick) (as well as a small army of visual effects wizzes), but not as much as screenwriters Jon Spaihts, C. Robert Cargill, and writer/director Scott Derrickson – all who came from, both surprisingly and maybe not so surprisingly, the Insidious horror movie franchise. The stunt folk clearly know martial arts, but the writers and director clearly know kung fu as well as supernatural mysticism – both of which Doctor Strange trades in.
Telling you anything more might dampen the fun, and I wouldn’t want to do that, since there is much fun to be had here. But, if anything, the Inception-esque mind and eye candy fills the table to overflowing, and will reward any repeated viewing … while it also might threatens the weak-kneed with a tummy, eye, and/or head ache. But I feasted with pleasure.
Benedict Cumberbatch once again earns his reputation in charisma alone, nobly aided and abetted by Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, and, in the most-is-forgiven whitewashed role, the suitably other-worldly Tilda Swinton (who might actually better suited to the part than the original chop-suey-typical “Ancient One” of the comics). But be prepared to accept that Benedict’s best co-star in the film is his cape.
You’ll know why when you see it, and you should see it. You might even see me seeing it again. And, if you do, let me know if you’re a fellow Doctor Who fan. We might all get a warm feeling during and after the climax, which is, quite simply, heaven sent for any super hero, kung fu, or sci-fi fan (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more).