Doctor Strange

New York produces way too many superheroes. Can’t we get a hero from like, Tallahassee? Someone who lived in a trailer park their whole life?

All I’m saying is it’s hard to root for someone who started with everything or the innate abilities to get there from the beginning. Stephen Strange, M.D., is a highly respected, photographic memory having neurosurgeon. He has a sweet apartment, way too many watches, and shows us how great he is by saving a patient through a ridiculous House style mystery solve. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the ability to text and drive.

His hands ruined, Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) seeks out any possible remedy to save his metacarpals, and therefore, his career.

In Nepal, because of course, he finds the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) a bald, wise woman in the vein of any archaic and whimsical mentor who says things that only make sense to those who are enlightened. She, and her group of “magicians”, defend the Earth not from physical threats, but from spiritual ones. Strange learns that there are an infinite number of universes that you can pull energy from to create weapons and manipulate matter. Which sounds extremely physical and not spiritual at all, O Ancient One.

Like all master-student stories, there is a former student who has gone to the dark side. He is convinced that by allowing the Earth to be consumed by the dark dimension and its resident evil spirit, Dormammu, we will all be able to live eternally without the fear of death.

Weird is a decent adjective for Doctor Strange. Any movie with an Earth eating entit, and time bending heroes has to be. But in the grand scheme of Marvel movies it isn’t all that out there. It is kind of surprising that there are a league of magicians that have existed this whole time and not revealed themselves. Couldn’t have helped with Ultron even a little bit?

Doctor Strange is elevated out of a humdrum origin story by a few key factors. The first is Benedict himself. Almost too perfectly cast, he steps into the role with ease. His versatility is incredible. His character quips at the right moments and tackles moral quandaries at others. Exactly the formula we expect from our Marvel heroes. The only thing laughable is that incredibly fake beard he sports for about twenty minutes.

Tilda Swinton is surprisingly restrained as the second great factor of Strange. Restrained for a Tilda Swinton character that is. She’s delightfully weird, knowledgeable, and powerful. Whereas Strange stumbles from encounter to encounter, saved by sheer luck and other’s help, Swinton’s The Ancient One is appropriately strong and imposing. She elevates every scene.

The final factor is the incredible special effects. They are dizzying in their scale. Inception level events are thrown left and right by characters manipulating space, time, and matter. I found myself gasping. It’s really hard for Marvel to outdo itself visually, but Doctor Strange has boldy gone forward in that departmen.

As far as the cinematic universe goes, Doctor Strange is one of the better ones. It’s a by the books origin story, elevated out of mediocrity by great performances and an even greater visual spectacle. Just don’t think too hard about that multiple universes thing, or else the magic might disappear.

3 out of 4 stars

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