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Dan's Review: "Doctor Strange" a welcome addition to the Marvel Universe

Nov 04, 2016 01:01PM ● Published by Dan Metcalf

Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange - © 2016 – Marvel Studios

Doctor Strange (Marvel Studios)

Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action throughout, and an intense crash sequence.

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott Adkins, Zara Phythian, Alaa Safi, Katrina Durden, Topo Wresniwiro, Umit Ulgen, Linda Louise Duan.

Written by Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill based on the comic books by Steve Ditko.

Directed by Scott Derrickson.

GRADE: A

REVIEW:

Marvel is back. For a while, it seemed the superhero franchise could do no wrong – until a glutton of characters, movies and merging franchises seemed to get in the way of some of the storytelling. Case in point is Avengers: Age of Ultron, in which so many superheroes filled the screen, it was hard to keep up. Following Ultron, the Marvel gang did a little reset, moving away from Joss Whedon’s convention-style approach, one-too-many sequels (Iron Man 3) and going back to quality standalone films with likable characters (Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy). Perhaps the lesson learned is the idea of introducing cool new characters – the thing that brought Marvel to prominence in the first place – is the best practice. Doctor Strange is one of those new standalone films, released this week.

Benedict Cumberbatch play Dr. Stephen Strange, a successful, wealthy and cocky neurosurgeon working in NYC. After a violent car crash, Strange is left with mangled and partially paralyzed hands. Desperate for a cure, Strange estranges his colleague/former girlfriend/best friend Christine (Rachel McAdams) and becomes nearly destitute. He discovers a man (Benjamin Bratt) who was able to heal from a spinal cord injury by studying under the “Ancient One” (Tilda Swinton) a Celtic mystic who operates Dojo (of sorts) in Kathmandu, Tibet. Using the last of his money, Strange travels to Tibet and begs her to show him how to heal. Despite being wary of Strange’s narcissism, Ancient One and her sidekick Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) train the ravaged doctor in the martial/spiritual arts. Strange learns about spiritual realm from which Ancient One and her crew draw power; a world unseen by mortals that exists in a mirrored state. With his superior intellect, Strange’s training progresses faster than expected, and he acquires knowledge of the space/time continuum and how to manipulate it using ancient spells. He also learns that one Ancient One’s former pupils Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) has rebelled and stolen part of the spell, hoping to bring Dormammu of the Dark Dimension to destroy Earth.

Strange is thrust back to New York, where he battle Kaecilius and his zealots, who are trying to take control of portals that protect the Earth from the ravages of the Dark Dimension.  Strange learns deep secrets of Ancient One, and must decide whether to use his powers for good or evil.

Doctor Strange is a unique and interesting film, for a few reasons. First, audiences are introduced to a new character that most common non-comic book folk are not acquainted, played perfectly by a very skilled actor (Cumberbatch). Second, the story behind Strange and the spiritual world is clever and compelling, causing introspection without getting too bogged down in the minutiae of Dark Dimensions and time travel. Third, it’s just great story telling with likable characters and just enough humor.

Doctor Strange also helps audiences look forward to Marvel’s other forthcoming standalone projects, including Captain Marvel, Black Panther and (yet another) Spiderman reboot. Keeping things fresh can only help a franchise that’s getting larger by the minute.

I’m holding out hope that it will all come together nicely when Marvel’s Phase 3 comes to a climactic end in the Infinity War films. Doctor Strange is a welcome addition to the process.


Doctor Strange Trailer

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