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I have begun to think Marvel Studios can take any Marvel Comics property and make a good movie from the source material. After they succeeded two years ago with Guardians of the Galaxy, the sky was the limit and Doctor Strange seems to me to be a direct beneficiary of the runaway hit GotG. To call Doctor Strange a B List character in the Marvel Comics Universe might be giving him too much credit, but Marvel must have assumed if they could make things work for GotG, they could make them work for anyone.
This movie benefits – as many Marvel films do – from strong casting. Benedict Cumberbatch makes a terrific lead. His Stephen Strange is odd, arrogant and fun to watch, kind of a mix of Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes and Khan. He’s a surgeon about to be humbled by a terrible accident and trained by Tilda Swinton’s The Ancient One and Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Mordo in the ways of the mystic arts. Along the way, we also connect with (but only barely) Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer. Throw in Mads Mikkelson as Kaecilius and you have a very solid line-up of actors. Each of these do a great job playing the material very straight. Gone are the days of camp approaches to superheroes, even to those with goatees who deal with the mystic arts. No, this cast acts as though they are on stage at the Globe and the movie is all the better for it.
The action in this film, especially the action featured in the last reel, can be quite stunning. The climax is truly breathtaking as is Strange’s clever (if slightly derivative Edge of Tomorrow fans) confrontation with the big-bad of the movie at the end of the film. Marvel touted Doctor Strange as something new and different from the rest of their movies and, considering Strange’s powers and the way they manifest on screen, the company succeeded. There are some truly breathtaking moments on screen.
The movie is also surprisingly funny and the whole cast gets moments to shine and to make the audience laugh. Doctor Strange has crowd pleasing intentions and, for the most part, those intentions land nicely.
However, if there are problems, they are these: the origin story (and even I am getting a little fatigued by origin stories) of Stephen Strange skews very closely to Tony Stark’s origin and Marvel has to understand that invoking the magic-in-a-bottle of Iron Man is a frightening proposition. That’s a very high bar to clear. Additionally, these movies have to figure out their villains. There is simply not enough for Mikkelson to do with Kaecilius. He simply doesn’t seem that big a threat or, at least, he doesn’t seem a threat distinct from most of the other Marvel threats.
These issues don’t detract from overall enjoyment of the movie. They simply keep a great movie from being terrific.
Oh, and there are not one but TWO secret endings. Stay in your seats…
DOCTOR STRANGE receives FOUR EYES OF AGAMOTTO out of a possible FIVE.