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Movie Night – ‘Dr. Strange’ challenges idea of reality

By Bradley Griffith

Are you willing to suspend your disbelief? If you want to enjoy “Doctor Strange” you will need to open your mind and accept the movie for what it is, a mystical superhero story that is a leap into uncharted territory for Marvel Studios.

Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is one of the world’s finest neurosurgeons. He takes on the most challenging patients that no one else in the world can help. He’s brash, arrogant, brilliant, and extremely talented. He loves his career and his fast-paced and luxurious lifestyle.

His entire life comes crashing to a halt late one night when he has a horrific car crash. Miraculously, he has no life-threatening injuries.  He’s alive and breathing. But when he wakes after surgery he realizes that his career as a neurosurgeon has come crashing to a halt.  Both of his hands were extensively damaged in the accident and he wakes to multiple rods and pins in each of his hands.

Strange is devastated.  His entire life was built around the use of his hands.  Before he was a maestro in the operating room. Now, after rigorous physical therapy his hands can barely hold a pen to write his own name.  He tries every treatment in the world to repair his hands, but they still tremble with only the slightest use.  In desperation, he travels to Katmandu, Nepal seeking the aid of eastern medicine.  What he finds instead is enlightenment.

Strange meets the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), a sorcerer who offers to train Strange in the ways of the universe, but only if he is willing to set aside his ego and open his mind and eyes to the reality of many different universes. Strange agrees and begins his training under the Ancient One and another sorcerer, Mordo (Chiwetal Ejiofor).  He learns that while the Avengers protect the world from physical threats, the sorcerers protect the world from more mystical threats.

Strange is unwittingly cast into the middle of the battle between the sorcerers and Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen).  Kaecilius is a former student of the Ancient One who went rogue and took his followers with him.  He wants to bring dark powers to destroy the Earth.  As you may expect, Strange is the only one who can stop him.

I went into the movie knowing nothing about Dr. Strange other than what has been shown in the trailers for the movie.  What I found was a visual feast for your eyes. The sorcerers can open portals to travel to other parts of the planet in a single step and the Ancient One and Kaecilius have the ability to bend space and matter to suit their needs.  The resulting product is several scenes that resemble those in “Inception” with entire cities folding in on themselves. If you want to see this movie do yourself a favor and watch it on the big screen where you can get maximum enjoyment of the special effects.

The entire cast of the movie performs well.  While Benedict Cumberbatch is more than adequate as the title character, it’s Tilda Swinton and Mads Mikkelsen that shine the brightest.  Mikkelsen’s career has been on an upward swing since he appeared as the villain in “Casino Royale” opposite Daniel Craig’s James Bond.  He’s great at playing the bad guy, and “Doctor Strange” is no exception.  As for Swinton’s performance, it’s safe to say that no one else currently in Hollywood could have successfully pulled off the role of the Ancient One.

The plot of the movie is unusual, to say the least. In addition to the “strange” storyline and the trippy special effects, fans of action movies will be happy to know that there is plenty of hand-to-hand combat and magical battles between the good and evil sorcerers.  While Strange battles what amounts to invisible enemies from other dimensions, there is also a fair amount of unexpected humor to balance the mind-bending aspects of the story.

“Doctor Strange” will never be voted the best Marvel movie, but if you’re looking for something different at the theater, something that will challenge your idea of reality and provide action and humor along the way, this movie is your best bet.

Grade: B+

Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action throughout and an intense crash sequence.