The Bock’s Office: ‘Doctor Strange’ is Marvel magic at its mightiest
Not everyone is equipped to twist time to their advantage, take a portal as a day trip to the summit of Mount Everest or engage in a bare-knuckle brawl while maintaining the consistency of gossamer. Then again, “Doctor Strange” isn’t your average practitioner.
If you go…
“Doctor Strange,” rated PG-13
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Running time: 115 minutes
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams and Tilda Swinton
The field of modern neurosurgery begins and ends with one name: Strange.
Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), to be exact.
Known around the world for his unparalleled precision in the operating room and overall medical know-how, his ego is virtually unchecked as he boasts of never having lost a patient and only accepting the most challenging cases.
That makes it all the more ironic when Strange is involved in a car accident that shatters his hands and results in nerve damage that only a surgeon such as himself could have repaired.
Refusing to believe his career is over, the distraught doctor exhausts his wealth searching for any kind of solution and is at last led to Nepal, where rumors swirl of The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), who can make the impossible happen.
A skeptical Strange doesn’t find the answer he’s looking for in the mystical hideaway, but by opening his mind he may have found his true calling.
As someone who’s played a dragon, a genetic superhuman, Sherlock Holmes and more, you’d expect Cumberbatch’s performance to be larger than life, and he doesn’t disappoint as a physician who’s endlessly arrogant about his capabilities yet light-hearted enough to never turn down a round of “Name That Tune” while picking apart someone’s brain.
It’s when this guy with a God complex is introduced to the astral plane that we start to see the Marvel Comics character take shape better than any other since Robert Downey, Jr. got into heavy metal.
A white woman filling in for an Asian man is a tricky gambit, but Swinton’s bit as the immortal guru known as the Sorcerer Supreme at least convinces us that maybe race and gender are minimal considerations in a vast, unknowable universe.
Likewise, Chiwetel Ejiofor fits finely into the part of Mordo, a steadfast disciple of the Ancient One, raising an eyebrow when Strange begins to pick up the ways of magic a little too quickly and eagerly.
Of course, he’s got good reason to be cautious since the last person to jump into so many advanced spells also happens to be dead set on altering the fabric of reality. Mads Mikkelsen is a convincing piece of the puzzle as the treacherous Kaecilius, whose fanatical devotion to powers beyond his control is nothing compared to walking around with the worst case of conjunctivitis you can imagine.
Like a lot of the Marvel movies, the origin story doesn’t have the most compelling villain yet the stage is set for bigger things here as we start to explore a new kind of superhero.
Cumberbatch’s nearly flawless portrayal is matched by a mind-bending, cosmic kaleidoscope display that turns the world on its ear in the Mirror Dimension and otherwise, flipping us around before we get too comfortable.
And fear not, co-creator Stan Lee’s cameo keeps it grounded, at least for a little while…
The archetypes may be archaic, but there’s a playful sense of humor, too, not the least of which comes from Strange’s newfound tool, the Cloak of Levitation, which doubles as an outfit of pure power and a smothering guard dog.
As for the Eye of Agamotto? Well, you’ll just have stay tuned, true believers.
The Marvel magic keeps going strong with “Doctor Strange” and reminds faithful viewers that there is plenty more to come as long as the right people are in place. And, like any long-running comic book series, the possibilities are infinite.
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