For the first time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we have been introduced to the sorcery side of the company’s comic books, with their release of “Doctor Strange” (in theaters November 4).
It’s expected by this point that Marvel knows how to properly tell an origin story about one of its properties, and that holds with “Doctor Strange.” Director Scott Derrickson (“Sinister”) lays out what transforms egotistical neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange from master of the ER to master of the mystic arts. And Benedict Cumberbatch as Strange is perfect at the conflicted (and sarcastic) state he’s in when he learns that he must find a new path after a horrific car accident robs him of the ability to be a surgeon.
But the visual effects are the real star of “Doctor Strange.”
The closest thing to a psychedelic film that family-friendly Disney will allow, it’s filled with dazzling visuals taking us into other dimensions and a kaleidoscope-like view of some of the biggest cities in the world that goes beyond what was done in Christopher Nolan’s “Inception.” Yes, even die-hard Nolan fans will have reason to see this.
In search of a way to heal his hands after the car accident, Strange travels East in search of alternate medicine. He learns of the Ancient One (played by Tilda Swinton, who is amazing as always, despite concerns over whitewashing). After getting a glimpse of what is really beyond the world around us, Strange is hooked and wants to become her disciple.
Fellow disciple Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) helps train Strange, but before you know it Strange has gobbled up all the information about the mystic arts to become a master. In that time he also learns of the evil Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) and his plans for destruction.
The story is fast and really kicks into gear when Strange takes on Kaecilius, though at times there are pauses in the action to sneak in Strange’s love interest Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), a subplot that’s funny but mostly feels forced.
I’m not a huge fan of 3D, but there’s honestly no other movie for which I can recommend the format more. The VFX wizardry that bends and shifts the cities of New York, London, and Hong Kong is really top-notch and makes a movie that otherwise doesn’t compel much a joy to watch.
Just don’t sit too close to the screen.