Doctor Strange — according to my research — is the seventh superhero movie of 2016. For someone growing weary of the genre and its conflicts and predictable climaxes, it’s five too many.
This one is based on Dr. Stephen Strange, whose tragic happenstance turns him into one of Marvel Comics’ most popular characters.
Benedict Cumberbatch (TV’s Sherlock and The Imitation Game) plays Strange, who begins the movie as an innovative and arrogant fame-is-the-name-of-the-game surgeon. A car wreck shatters the bones in his fingers, and he can no longer perform surgery. Desperate to fix his nonworking digits, Strange ends up in the Himalayas, where he meets The Ancient One.
She and others in her compound train the arrogant doctor in the mystical arts.
Just before Strange enters his mentor’s life, a former student who is wooed by the Marvel universe’s version of the Dark Side, steals pages from one of the Ancient One’s books. It shows him how to stop time, and warp and control the three-dimensions of our plane of existence.
His goal is to destroy it all.
Once in a while, a movie will rewrite the special effects book. To put it in perspective, in 1968 2001: A Space Odyssey blew our minds. Star Wars did the same in 1977. The Terminator 2 boggled minds in 1991, and 1998 saw the biggest rewrite of them all — and that one that has influenced special effects more than any picture in history — The Matrix.
Doctor Strange tiptoes up to The Matrix territory, and then delivers the same jaw-dropping experience. Each effect seems to outdo the one before. Just when you think you’ve seen it all and can’t be any more impressed, something new happens.
Adding to the film’s excellent 3-D is a three-dimensional plot. Cumberbatch — who you don’t really associate with comedy — is funny, and he and co-stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen, Rachel McAdams and Benedict Wong have a wonderful time with the tongue-in-cheek script that never takes itself seriously.
You shouldn’t take it seriously, either. And it leads to an important point that the genre needs to embrace. Like the only other worthy superhero movie of the year Deadpool, Doctor Strange has a script that will have you howling in spots. Humor in these movies — like in horror — helps sell the premise.
And humor — in this one — doctors Doctor Strange quite nicely.
Director: Scott Derrickson
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Benjamin Bratt, Michael Stuhlbarg
Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, some violence. It’s playing at the Carmike 12, the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco 12 and Queensgate 12, and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen.
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don’t bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.