ReelBob: ‘Doctor Strange’

By Bob Bloom

The Marvel Cinematic Universe expands into the multiverse with the release of “Doctor Strange.”

While most Marvel heroes, either teamed as The Avengers or as individuals, protect the physical world from threats domestic, foreign and alien, Dr. Strange guards the world from mystic and magical dangers.

Benedict Cumberbatch joins the A-list of such actors as Robert Downey Jr., Christian Bale, Scarlett Johannsen and Ben Affleck, portraying comic-book characters successfully transposed to the big screen.

Cumberbatch plays Dr. Stephen Strange, a brilliant, arrogant, egotistical and self-centered neurosurgeon, whose hands are irreparably damaged after a car accident.

Strange tries various methods to fix his hands. They are his world, mattering more than anything or anyone, including Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), his colleague and former lover.

After many futile attempts, Strange hears of a monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal, where he believes his hands can be fully healed.

Upon arrival, he meets the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), who explains to him that our universe is simply one of many dimensional existences.

The skeptical Strange is given a demonstration that shatters his illusions about the real world, and he becomes a student at the monastery.

The major drawback of “Doctor Strange,” directed by Scott Derrickson (“Sinister,” “Deliver Us From Evil,” “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”), who co-wrote the script with four others, is that it seems to rush through this part of the film, seemingly in a hurry to get to the main conflict.

That centers on Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), a former student of the Ancient One, who has stolen an age-old spell that will give him and his followers immortality and put Earth under the power of a dark and evil force.

“Doctor Strange” rolls along at a swift pace that gives you little time to grasp all of what is happening.

Still, the technical magicians who have created some dazzling CGI effects, such as buildings and streets folding in on each other, or turning sideways, are most impressive.

Cumberbatch makes an unlikely hero. Like Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, he is not a very likable person. His people skills are inadequate. He lacks tact, charm, compassion and empathy.

Even after his accident, his only concern is himself.

The Ancient One not only teaches him magic, but helps instill a sense of selflessness that Strange needs to complete his training and become a Master.
Swinton gives a solid performance, textured with wit and understanding.

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Baron Mordo, one of Strange’s instructors and ally, is sturdy with an air of danger surrounding him.

Benedict Wong, as Wong the monastery librarian, brings a dose of humor to the proceedings.

“Doctor Strange” is another winning entry for Marvel. It will not disappoint fans, and those not familiar with the comic book or the character also will find the movie vastly entertaining.

Finally, a word of advice. Stay through the entire credits. You will not be disappointed if you do.

Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at bobbloomjc@gmail.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom.

DOCTOR STRANGE
3 stars out of 4
(PG-13), sci-fi action and violence, disturbing images, including an intense crash sequence

 

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