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Doctor Strange Movie Review

Doctor Strange: Cinematic Universe Edition Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art
Doctor Strange is now available on home video. Read our review of the Cinematic Universe Edition Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo.

Doctor Strange (2016) movie poster Doctor Strange

Theatrical Release: November 4, 2016 / Running Time: 115 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Scott Derrickson / Writers: Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill (screenplay); Stan Lee, Steve Ditko (comic book)

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Stephen Strange), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Mordo), Rachel McAdams (Dr. Christine Palmer), Benedict Wong (Wong), Mads Mikkelsen (Kaecilius), Tilda Swinton (The Ancient One), Michael Stuhlbarg (Dr. Nicodemus "Nic" West), Benjamin Bratt (Jonathan Pangborn), Scott Adkins (Lucian - Strong Zealot)

Buy Doctor Strange from Amazon.com:
Cinematic Universe Edition Blu-ray 3D Combo Blu-ray Combo DVD Instant Video

It's getting hard to get jazzed about a new superhero movie. You rarely have to wait more than a couple of months for one to crop up and most of them merely add to an expansive and calculated franchise.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to be the standard bearer with its track record of commercial and critical success. But Marvel has mostly come to rely on sequels, with the line between The Avengers and single-hero movies continuously being blurred by deep-casted crossovers. The only Marvel movies we get that aren't sequels and spin-offs are origin movies and we've seen enough of those to become acutely aware of their formulas, even if they still tend to entertain.

Doctor Strange introduces a new superhero. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a gifted and confident Manhattan neurosurgeon. He commands either respect or envy from his peers and something a little deeper from his fellow surgeon and former partner Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). Doctor Strange gets a rude awakening when distracted driving results in a severe car accident that requires emergency surgery to save his life. He survives, but the nerves in his hands are a mess, casting sudden doubt over his future as a surgeon.

Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) goes from hotshot neurosurgeon to superhero in Marvel's "Doctor Strange."

Upon learning of one instance of someone overcoming such extreme nerve damage to live a healthy life (a brief Benjamin Bratt), Strange journeys to Nepal, the site of that miraculous rehabilitation. There in Kathmandu lies the secret compound called Kamar-Taj, where Strange begs to be taught by The Ancient One (a bald Tilda Swinton) upon being referred by her student Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor). The Ancient One blows Strange's brilliant mind, by showing him how his astral body can be separated from his physical one. Not only do Strange's hands regain their function, but he unlocks all kinds of mystical powers he couldn't dream of.

Strange will need those powers wrangling with Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), a former student of The Ancient One who has stolen spells and gone rogue. He can toy with time and fold matter, gifts that complicate life for the doctor.

The fact that it didn't breed much excitement in me helped Doctor Strange surpass expectations. It is not "just another Marvel movie", something that even the diehard fans have to be getting tired of eight years after Iron Man helped define the brand. Oh sure, you still get a slightly eccentric male hero with a friend, a love interest, a mentor, and an enemy. But nothing is blandly defined as that and we don't get the sense that all these boxes have to be checked off. We also don't get the sense that Doctor Strange is being introduced merely to join the ranks of The Avengers as that series winds down, though he will probably turn up there.

The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) opens the mind of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) by treating him to this out-of-body experience.

Cumberbatch is a fine actor, who seems completely at ease as a Marvel leading man and one speaking with an American accent. He brings wit to the performance, though the film's biggest laugh belongs to Kamar-Taj librarian Wong (Benedict Wong), who earns it with an unexpected laugh of his own.

McAdams, Swinton, and Mikkelsen are better actors than the movie needs for those roles, but all of them elevate the proceedings dramatically, even if this is not the type of movie they're accustomed to.

Director Scott Derrickson, also one of three credited screenwriters, comes to Marvel from a background in horror. His past films include Sinister and The Exorcism of Emily Rose. That requires less of a transition than the Russo Brothers did going from TV sitcoms to Captain America: Winter Soldier. Derrickson isn't a known enough quantity to really identify what he brings to this picture, but that seems to be Marvel's preferred method.

With less humor but no less action than other Marvel pictures, Doctor Strange may be most distinguished by its visual effects, which are often inventive and impressive. I'm not someone who raves about or even says much about visual effects, but the ones here visualizing the out-of-body experiences and matter deconstruction stimulate the senses and breathe some interest into this standard yet stately presentation. The 3D of my screening and many other exhibitions dulls the vivid colors, but does convey the depth of Rachel McAdams' cheek mole like none of her past movies has.

Of course, there are not one but two extra scenes featured within the end credits. Neither is used to tease a specific upcoming venture, but at the same time it's clear the studio intends to bring this character back, with some more established heroes chipping in.

Buy Doctor Strange from Amazon.com:
Cinematic Universe Edition Blu-ray 3D Combo / Blu-ray Combo / DVD / Instant Video

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Chiwetel Ejiofor: Secret in Their Eyes Dirty Pretty Things Salt

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Reviewed November 4, 2016.

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