*** out of four
With the movie market over-saturated with comic book adaptations, it may not be easy to get excited about them anymore. However, Marvel's Doctor Strange is worthy entertainment, thanks to top-notch performances, a conventional yet smart script, eye-popping digital effects, and a healthy sense of humor.
This is a typical yet lively origin story. Arrogant neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) get into a serious car crash that causes severe nerve damage to his most valuable surgical tools – his hands. When conventional medicine can't heal him, Strange travels to Kathmandu to seek help from the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) who encourages using the power of the mind. It turns out that the Ancient One and her assistant, Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), are sorcerers and reveal the astral world and other dimensions to Strange. After much resistance, the former neurosurgeon takes to these powers well and must help take down a former student of the Ancient One, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), who has stolen a mystical text that can open a world of eternal life but would break the laws of nature. Trust me when I say that the film actually makes this all pretty clear.
The action scenes, where the characters chase each other through constantly twisting and morphing city scapes – reminiscent of the movies Dark City (1998) and Inception (2010) – is wild, mind-bending excitement, and should definitely be seen in 3D. A great set piece is when a wounded Strange has his ex-girlfriend (Rachel McAdams) operate on him as his spirit hops out of his body and fights a villain throughout the hospital.
The screenplay, by director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) and C. Robert Cargill and Jon Spaihts, displays a large dose of humor, and that helps immeasurably. Even Mikkelsen's menacing bad guy has some funny moments.
Doctor Strange is everything a comic book movie should be. It's fun, action-packed and a joy to behold.