November 4, 2016 10:21 am

‘Doctor Strange’ review: This is the champagne of Marvel movies

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Visually spectacular and armed with a fine cast, Doctor Strange is the champagne of Marvel movies. Not only is the protagonist of the film a surgeon, but there’s a sort of highbrow-ness to the proceedings, like we’ve entered a realm of the superhero elite.

The story is reflective of that too: Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is an arrogant, brilliant physician whose own recklessness causes a violent car accident that renders his operating hands useless. In desperation, he travels across the world to find a cure so he can return to greatness. Along the way he discovers something far more powerful.

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This isn’t your typical superhero arc; normally there is a death of a child, or of parents, or another fatal catastrophe that sends the main character reeling. In a unique approach, Dr. Strange suffers through the death of his entire being, lost when his car drove off a cliff.

How is Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange?

As always, Cumberbatch escapes into his role and takes us with him. This man can play a dragon, Sherlock or really anything and still be convincing, and he does it all with irrepressible charm. He eases into Dr. Strange like he’s been playing him his whole life. Fun with a dry sense of humour, it’s nearly impossible not to root for Strange, despite his rude tendencies.

What about the supporting cast?

Outstanding. Tilda Swinton’s The Ancient One, shaved head and all, is a near scene-stealer, and for one to steal a scene from Cumberbatch is quite the feat. Her presence is so alien-like and mystical, it’s not a stretch in the least to think of her as an all-powerful being who can harness power from other dimensions. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Mordo, a sort-of sidekick to Strange, and he shows the wayward doctor the ropes. Mads Mikkelsen is the villian of the film, Kaecilius, and really all he has to do is glower and we’re sold.

The only real weak spot is Rachel McAdams‘ character, Christine, who’s like a low-level Mary Jane (of Spider-Man). She’s not given much to do other than patch up Strange and look concerned — the mild love affair between the two is talked about but never seen — and it’s a shame to see women in the Marvel universe still relegated to cheerleader/nurse.

I’ve heard the 3D is pretty spectacular. Is that true?

Ever wanted to step into a M.C. Escher painting? Now’s your chance. At times, the effects are so engrossing it feels like you’re on the Doctor Strange ride at Disney World rather than watching a movie. (If this movie fares well at the box office, there will be a ride at a theme park very soon.) In most recent films, the 3D aspect doesn’t add very much to the film, but for once it actually contributes, complementing the mystical, spiritual themes of this story. Think Inception dream sequence meets Magic Eye print.

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What about the plot?

With all of the dazzling special effects surrounding the plot, it would be remiss to say it doesn’t suffer at all. The movie is very A-B-C, and you can tick off the checkboxes in your head: crisis, self-awareness, mastering of new skills, taking on the enemy for the first time, taking on the enemy for the second time, resolution. That’s not to say it’s not an enjoyable romp, but it is a predictable one.

So what’s the bottom line?

Theatres have been lacking juice at the box office lately, and Doctor Strange provides a nice oasis for those of you searching for something both visually and mentally stimulating. It was wholly absorbing to watch two otherworldly-looking people control the planet (and the universe?) with their minds, and even though there are weak spots in the movie, they’re easy to ignore by focusing on the cinematic art literally unfolding, bending, twisting and spiralling in front of you.

‘Doctor Strange’ opens in theatres on Nov. 4, 2016.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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