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Film Review: An arrogant M.D. learns the power of spirit in “Doctor Strange”

Grade: A

Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) can be compared to the Doctor in “Doctor Who” in terms of each of the character’s abilities to manipulate time and tell a good joke, but they’re vastly different when it comes to nearly everything else. Marvel Studios’ newest superhero film “Doctor Strange” (which features an actual physician unlike the Time Lord) teaches us the power of self-spirit even when you’ve hit rock-bottom.

Just when you thought Marvel might be running out of characters to throw into films, they break into the comic vault and pull out one of the most unique superheroes of them all. In this live-action feature, Dr. Strange must overcome his own arrogance as an accomplished neurosurgeon in order to heal himself.

To do so, he needs more than what any hospital has to offer him. But when he visits an ancient magic school (no, it’s not Hogwarts) in Kathmandu, Nepal, he gets much more than he asked for. In a time when he thought he needed help, it turns out an unknown magical world needs him more.

Although Dr. Strange retains most of the screen time, the film is strongly supported by a powerful cast, including Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Karl Mordo, Rachel McAdams as Strange’s arm’s-length romantic interest Christine Palmer and former James Bond villain Mads Mikkelsen in another villainous role as Kaecilius.

While director Scott Derrickson excels in the big chair, it almost feels like the special effects of Christopher Nolan can be felt. If you have ever seen “Inception,” you will understand the comparison. The special effects are a dominating aspect of nearly every scene in the film. There was quite a bit of imagination that went into every scene, too, especially ones featuring Strange’s battles with Kaecilius.

Much like the scripts of many superhero comics, the entire story was littered with jokes and quirky moments. Even stoic, rule-following characters like the librarian Wong (Benedict Wong) get in on the fun.

It’s interesting how so much growth and backstory can be squeezed into one hour and 55 minutes. At the beginning, you observe Strange’s enormous influence as a doctor and his strong criticism of others; towards the end of the story, he sees the world as something that needs to be protected from the dark forces around it.

Marvel Studios has definitely been putting in the work to keep their lineup of films constant and refreshing. Their blockbuster film franchises have garnered millions of dollars in revenue over the years and “Doctor Strange” shows promise of becoming another box office success. While it may be viewed by some as just another superhero film, like all other Marvel movies, it is distinctive in nature. It has its own brand and an actor that will be forever known for playing the title role.

Coupled with an overqualified cast and the special effects that would put any other action movie to shame, “Doctor Strange” might just be the only important movie to watch in theaters this November. If you do go, make sure you stay to the end of the film as well because there’ll be some interesting material about upcoming Marvel movies.

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