Friday, November 4, 2016

Doctor Strange

Review by Bob Ignizio

In recent issues of Marvel comics (remember, those paper thingies the big blockbuster movies are based on?), Tony "Iron Man" Stark has taken to referring to Dr. Strange as his "facial hair bro." But the two characters have more in common than just their goatees. Each of them started out as a genius in his respective field – Stark in technology, Strange in neurosurgery. And each also started their journey to heroism as an arrogant asshole.

And yes, to some degree DOCTOR. STRANGE follows a superhero formula not even unique to these two characters, in which they must learn, after suffering severe misfortune, to put others ahead of themselves and become heroes. Just because it's been done before doesn't mean it's bad, and it certainly isn't here. But truth be told, it is starting to feel a bit familiar at this point.

The story is set in motion when Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) has his hands horribly mangled in a car wreck. Fearing he will never be able to perform surgery again, he exhausts all the medical and scientific options before turning to mysticism. He travels to Tibet, meets The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and her second in command Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), and after a rocky first meeting begins learning how to be a sorcerer. At first, Strange does this with the hope of finding a way to repair his hands, but eventually he realizes that he can do more good with magic than medicine.

Just in time, too. Seems another former student of the Ancient One, a guy named Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), is trying to let a powerful entity named Dormammu absorb the earth into his dark dimension. He believes by doing so, everyone will have the gift of eternal life. Of course, the kind of immortality offered by Dormammu isn't most people's idea of Paradise. It's up to Dr. Strange, with the help of Mordo, magical librarian Wong (Benedict Wong), and his surgeon on-again-off-again girlfriend Christine (Rachel McAdams), to stop the bad guy from realizing his evil plot.

There's not a lot going on beneath the surface here as there has been in some of the better Marvel movies (particularly the last two Captain America films), but if you're just looking for a fun comic book hero romp, this'll do. And while it isn't quite as trippy as the original sixties Steve Ditko-drawn comics it draws from, director Scott Derickson still fills his film with enough psychedelic imagery that one audience member at the screening I attended exclaimed that he should have dropped acid before watching. Even stone cold sober it's a good bit of fun, if not exactly essential viewing. 2 ½ out of 4 stars, but on the good side of 2 ½.

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