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Straight off the pages from Steve Ditko’s 1963 “Strange Tales,” Marvel Studios brings the Sorcerer Supreme to life in the 14th entry to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Doctor Strange.” The Scott Derrickson directed film, starring everyone’s favorite Brit, Benedict Cumberbatch, is a refreshing entry to the all too familiar superhero genre. After over a dozen films in its ever-growing franchise, Marvel has to find a way to keep their films refreshing, without straying too far from their original vision. So after demi-gods, talking space trees and civil war how do you spice-up the formula? Magic!
Marvel has dabbled in the mystical before, with Thor’s dimensional travel and the reveal of the infinity stones in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but has never dived so wholeheartedly into the realm of pure, fantasy magic. We embrace the out of the ordinary elements and sorcery of this new world, but how does the film stand on its own?
The story follows renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange on his search for the one cure that would recover the use of his hands after a brutal (and I mean brutal) car accident leaves him in shambles. Sparing no expense, Strange finds himself at the feet of Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One, wishing to learn the mystic arts. During his training, Strange discovers of a rouge sorcerer, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), conspiring to use the powers of the Dark Dimension to overthrow The Ancient One and gain eternal life.
The film rests on the shoulders of Cumberbatch’s performance as Dr. Strange. Not since Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Tony Stark has there been a more fitting casting choice in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. Strange’s know-it-all attitude and skepticism echoes that of the viewer. Just like us, he is familiar with the “science” and “logic” of this crazy world — with giant green gamma monsters — and refuses to believe that there’s also multidimensional magic. One surreal, hallucinogenic mind-trip later, we are all on board. The visuals of this film are beyond any in recent years. The “Inception”-like street-bending sequences, along with the multiverse effects straight from Ditko’s 1970s illustrations, transport you into this new take on the Marvel world.
Other standout performances include Rachel McAdam’s portrayal of fellow surgeon Christine Palmer. Although the standard love affair between the leads gets pushed aside to make room for the action, the duo’s chemistry is undeniable. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Mordo, providing a new take on the Marvel supporting character, one that (no movie spoilers here) comic readers will find refreshing for the character.
“Doctor Strange” is not without the standard Marvel flaws, however, with a less-than enchanting villain and a pace almost too quick to catch up with. These downsides are easily disregarded by the ingenious climax and the promises for future stories to come. If you are a lover of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or looking for a fun, new brand of action movie, “Doctor Strange” is the one for you.