At The Movies: Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange made his comic book debut in Marvel Comics’ “Strange Tales” #110 back in 1963. He was the second creation of the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko team, the first being Spider-Man. Strange was the fledgling Marvel Universe’s first magic-based character and would go on to be its most dominant one.

Thanks to Ditko’s surreal art and imagination, Doctor Strange comics opened up the MU to new dimensions, wild threats and weird worlds. “Doctor Strange” the movie brings all that craziness to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s another solid showing from the so-far unstoppable Marvel Studios.

Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Dr. Stephen Strange, a handsome, wealthy, genius, neurosurgeon with an oversized ego and attitude (Think Tony Stark but replace inventor with doctor).

Strange’s perfect life comes crashing down on him after he flips his car in a high-speed automobile accident. With his hands shattered and constantly shaking, his days as a surgeon appear to be over. Refusing to accept his fate, Strange squanders his money searching out a miracle cure.

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He learns that miracles are performed in a place called Kamar-Taj so he hops the first flight there. In Kamar-Taj he meets The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), a sorcerer who claims to live up to her name. At first Strange isn’t buying her tales of mystical cures and magic but when his astral self is torn from his body and sent on a whirlwind tour of the multiverse, he decides to become The Ancient One’s pupil.

If you’re wondering who is the bad guy of this piece, wonder no more: One of The Ancient One’s former pupils, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), has decided to call forth the Dread Dormammu from the Dark Dimension to have him conquer the Earth because, well, that’s what villains do.

It is fair to say that Marvel movies tend to have a lot of traits in common, especially the origin stories. Strange has a female friend who will likely become a love interest as the series progresses (Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer), a black sidekick for diversity’s sake (Chiwetel Ejiofor as Baron Mordo), and a comedy relief sidekick (Benedict Wong as Wong). They are all fine actors but they’re stuck playing familiar roles. The villain, as usual, is underdeveloped.

The humor, a staple of Marvel films, feels a bit forced at times. “Doctor Strange” doesn’t really lend itself to laughs like Ant-Man or Guardians of the Galaxy, and you get the impression that the filmmakers are trying too hard to bring the funny.

What makes “Doctor Strange” stand out from the rest is its wonderfully trippy special effects. The action sequences are amazing and mind bending — as well as architecture bending. Yes, it borrows from “Inception” but also builds on it in fun and interesting ways.

If you’re a fan of what Marvel Studios has been doing these past 14 films then you probably won’t be disappointed in “Doctor Strange.” The Infinity Stone story line carries over here and there are the usual post credits scenes to prime you for what’s next.

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