Leave it to the peculiar and theatrical Benedict Cumberbatch to brilliantly play the equally peculiar and theatrical Doctor Strange. This guy rocks!
Stephen Strange is a brilliant-yet-arrogant surgeon, who effortlessly saves lives while dancing to jazz music. After a terrible accident cripples his hands and ends his career, he travels to Kamar-Taj to find a cure. He instead finds a new calling in mystic arts, wearing a powerful cape, and battling sorcerer Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen).
“Doctor Strange” begins as a traditional origin story with a troubled protagonist finding his calling, but then it defies the formula. Don’t worry, folks. We get plenty of Doctor Strange after the 45-minute mark. Kudos to the writers for turning every plot prediction and cliche upside down.
Director Scott Derrickson, better known for horror titles such as “Exorcism of Emily Rose” and “Sinister,” brilliantly directs some innovative, quirky, and beautiful action sequences. They’re quite reminiscent of some of the best “Doctor Who” episodes and Sam Raimi’s work.
The style is great, but there is substance. Strange is a complex character with an overwhelming god complex. Transitioning from surgeon to wizard, he is eager to break all rules and learn all forms of magic to simply be number one. Think a sorcerer version of Tony Stark.
The supporting cast includes Chiwetel Ejiofer as Strange’s mentor Mordo, Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, and Benedict Wong as the sassy Mystic Arts master Wong, and Rachel McAdams as Strange’s former lover Christine. They all do a great job, each balancing drama and deadpan comedy in their respective performances.
The biggest flaw is use of exposition. There are several scenes where characters deliver exposition-fueled monologues regarding the mythology. It’s forgivable because of the strong protagonist and visionary direction.
“Doctor Strange” is a huge surprise that’s worth seeing. I missed the 3D, but good thing that’s what the second viewing is for.