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It fulfills the requirements of its Marvel origin story while never letting them weigh it down
DOCTOR STRANGE (Scott Derrickson). 115 minutes. Opens Friday (November 4). See Listings. Rating: NNNN
Doctor Strange is the first Marvel Studios picture to stand alone since Guardians Of The Galaxy, and it feels just as weird, unfettered and fun as James Gunn’s goofball space opera.
This is a good thing, since the character of Doctor Strange, sorcerer supreme of Greenwich Village, can be a bit of a pill. He’s basically Tony Stark without the self-awareness or sense of humour. (They even have the same goatee.)
Director/co-writer Scott Derrickson and star Benedict Cumberbatch take a slightly different tack. They paint Stephen Strange as a superstar in his own mind, whether he’s performing a delicate operation in a Manhattan hospital or learning to reshape the fabric of reality from The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton, making the most of her white-faced role) in the Nepalese refuge of Kamar-Taj after a car accident damages his hands and destroys his medical career. The guy’s a little bit of a dick even when facing unspoken nightmares of the multiverse, and that’s exactly what the role needs.
I was skeptical when Cumberbatch’s casting was announced – it just seemed so obvious, you know? – but the guy gets it. Also getting it: Chiwetel Ejiofor and Benedict Wong as fellow mystics Mordo and Wong, who are given a lot more depth in two hours than decades of comics ever offered. Rachel McAdams and Mads Mikkelsen make the most of smallish parts as Strange’s love interest, Christine Palmer, and sworn enemy, Kaecilius, respectively.
Doctor Strange fulfills the requirements of a Marvel origin story while feeling wonderfully unencumbered by any of the franchise maintenance that handicapped Avengers: Age Of Ultron and Ant-Man. Whether that’s because Captain America: Civil War took care of all of that earlier this spring or because Marvel is simply a little more daring these days is ultimately irrelevant: all that matters is the result.
This is one of the good ones.