THE MOVIE GUY: ‘Strange’ but satisfying Marvel movie

Published 11:32 pm Thursday, November 3, 2016

Marvel Studios has another improbable hit on their hands in the form of “Dr. Strange.” This latest comic book movie features another lesser known character from Marvel’s back catalogue. Thanks to assured filmmaking, the movie proves to be a wonderful introduction for this new character.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays the doctor with the improbable name of Stephen Strange. When we first meet, he is a talented, but arrogant neurosurgeon. That all changes when a car wreck robs him of the use of his hands. Strange is determined to get his hands back. When Western medicine fails to provide a remedy, he sets off for Katmandu to seek a more mystical cure.

Enter The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), a magical Celtic teacher who trains Strange to use a multi-dimensional power source to heal himself and to battle evil. That immediately comes in handy when another magic-wielding wizard (Mads Mikkelsen) attacks, hoping to open the earth up to be conquered by some all-powerful being from another dimension.

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Okay, the story is confusing, but the hero journey still works despite the confusing good-vs-evil surface plot. Cumberbatch is very good at playing the arrogant surgeon who is humbled and then forced to rebuild his life in service to something greater than his own personal ambitions.

The rest of the cast is also uniformly good. Swinton already seems like an unearthly being, so she’s perfectly cast as The Ancient One. Chiwetel Ejiofor is solid playing a conflicted sidekick and Rachel McAdams gives us one of the more fleshed out female roles in the entire Marvel universe.

Of course most people will be there for the special effects, which are top notch and especially impressive in IMAX 3D. The wizards bend reality as they fight, making their battlegrounds into twisting, M.C. Escher-inspired landscapes. They are quite stunning, although perhaps a bit much for audiences with weak stomachs.

I was also impressed by the deft use of humor to keep the film from getting too full of its own importance. Dr. Strange’s Cloak of Levitation becomes a character unto itself, and provides many of my favorite moments from the film. And the inevitable showdown between good and evil uses humor and intellect to win the day, rather than the show of force usually employed by superheroes.

Throw in some delightful asides from the stern librarian (Benedict Wong) and the film proves to be another winning mix of interesting characters, superb special effects and crowd-pleasing moments that will have audiences cheering, even if they’ve never heard of Dr. Strange before.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bweekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM and KBTV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at