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Movie Review: ‘Doctor Strange’ Casts a Fresher Spell on Marvel Origins

How does Doctor Strange (and the infamous Benedict Cumberbatch!) fare against the other popular Marvel movies? Find out by reading our movie review:

Doctor Strange doesn’t just add magic to the ever-expanding Marvel Universe, but opens a massive can of multidimensional worms. Magic may not appear to be that much of a stretch as an addition to a hero world already populated with aliens, gods, robots and super-powered humans that can throw shields, but this movie does its best to make magic appear far more grand and trippy than just the usual smoke and mirrors. It’s that added bit of pizzazz that helps lift the fairly standard Marvel movie origins story out of its usual motions.

Doctor Strange Movie Review MovieSpoon.com
‘Doctor Strange’ could have been a repeat, but instead we got something fresh.

And Doctor Strange could have easily gone on autopilot, given its origins being similar to that of Iron Man. Our protagonist of Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is established as a neurosurgeon so renowned and cocky that he becomes selective of his patients. He drives a slick car, rents a big apartment and boasts an even bigger ego. His luck runs out when a car crash massacres his hands, his career in surgery seems to be over.

Seeking any means of being able to stop his battered hands from shaking, he finds himself in Nepal where a sorcerer known as the Ancient One (a bald-headed Tilda Swinton) holds the answers to healing any wounds. Of course, she favors magic over traditional medicine, a method that Stephen scoffs at for both his beliefs and his general jerk nature. After all, it’s hard not to laugh at this New Age motif and philosophy.

 
Doctor Strange Movie Review MovieSpoon.com
How dare you question Tilda Swinton!

But he soon comes to agree with the Ancient One’s methods when she sends him on a trip through magical dimensions, where fingers grow all over his body, his spirit splinters off into duplicates and his perspective is run through a cavalcade of distortions. Intrigued, Stephen begs to join the Ancient One’s wizarding school of mishmash Eastern mysticism and learn the limitless knowledge of channeling dimensions. With a little help from current magic student Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Stephen picks up fairly quickly on the art of forming portals and shifting into the astral plain, which he apparently learns through a few books and some trial by fire.

Related: ‘Doctor Strange’ Opens to Marvelous $87.7M Overseas

His training is sped up over time so that the movie can shift to its magical villain Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) and his plot to destroy the world. With his burnt mascara and cold stare, he’s a former student of the Ancient One that wants to bring dark magic into our world so he can extend his own life. While the Ancient One believes in some sense of order, Kaecilius is more willing to break the rules of both magic and reality, warping and manipulating matter to turn the city of New York into a living M.C. Escher painting.

Doctor Strange Movie Review MovieSpoon.com
That’s a good look for you, Mads.

Doctor Strange follows many of the same story elements of previous Marvel movies, but does so with a visual flair that establishes its own magical world. The third act requires that the hero does battle with the villain in a city, but this fight takes a much different path as Strange battles Kaecilius and his cronies while reversing the damage. Even the grand showdown between Strange and the god-like CGI figure of Dormammu comes with a cleverer conclusion as opposed to the usual mastering of powers and ending the battle with a grand explosion. It’s been established that any hero with enough robotics or guns can blow something up real good; a master of magic is cleverer than that.

Read more to see the rest of the movie review for Doctor Strange:


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