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article imageReview: Doctor Strange casts a cinematic spell Special

By Tim Sandle     Oct 29, 2016 in Entertainment
Another superhero movie hits the big screen - Marvel's Doctor Strange. This one is a bit different, casting a strong actor and leaning towards the mystic rather than the all-out punch ups of other films in the series.
Doctor Strange is the fourteenth movie of what's called the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which means all films featuring Marvel characters except for the X-Men, the dull Fantastic Four offerings, and first 'oh-lets-change-the-lead actor-again' five Spider-Man movies; given the fourteen movies that count interact and cross-over in some way, a route map is desperately needed). Doctor Strange, however, works fairly well as a stand-alone movie.
The movie stars Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch, and Cumberbatch plays the role well, introducing a fine measure of sardonic humor. Also well characterized is Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays a mystic colleague of the good doctor. Strong performances are also delivered by Mads Mikkelsen and Rachel McAdams. Tilda Swinton isn't bad either, although there was something about her character (the Ancient One), which seemed a little two-dimensional. This was probably to enhance the 'mystery' of the figure. The casting has raised some points of controversy, by casting a white woman — Swinton — a role portrayed in the comics as an Asian man (see, for example, The Guardian on this point).
The essential plot of the movie concerns Steven Strange, a neurosurgeon, who suffers horrific images. Attempting to find a cure for an incurable shaking in his hands, he embarks on a journey of healing. at a place called Kamar-Taj in Nepal. The scenes where Strange learns his powers include philosophical musings on the relationship between science and faith. This unconventional learning ends up with Strange being drawn into the world of the mystic arts. Refusing to take on a super-hero moniker, as the now gifted Doctor Strange, the character becomes an expert in martial arts and gains magical powers, such as the ability to form an astral project; to fly, thanks to Cloak of Levitation and to control time through the Eye of Agamotto.
Visually the movie is very different to any other Marvel film. It is packed with psychedelic effects sequences and 'Inception' style camera work. There is also a full embrace of the fantastical elements that other Marvel movies have only skirted around. The best effects including rotating buildings which fold in on themselves, and trips into other dimensions (there's an entire 'multiverse' out there, apparently.) The movie is directed by Scott Derrickson, whose body of work includes horror movies like Sinister and Deliver Us From Evil.
There are also some impressive fight scenes between Strange and the main villain, the character Kaecilius (played by Mikkelsen). The fight scenes are more stylized with a nod towards Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon than, say, the recent Captain America movie. This injects an aliquot of freshness into a Marvel movie.
Doctor Strange is entertaining, well made with impressive visual effects, and Cumberbatch is good as the titular character. The movie rates 7 out of 10. Also, don't leave the movie until the end credits have finished, there are two short clips that connect to future Marvel movies.
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