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Robert Cargill, that ingeniously navigates major plot potholes even as it saddles its actors with ludicrous dialogue. As Doctor Strange, Benedict Cumberbatch sheds his British accent but not the attitude, which both attracts and repulses fellow doctor Christine Palmer (Rachel Mc Adams, the most competent — and human — of Marvel’s window-dressing girlfriends).
Perhaps that explains the complex that has driven Strange (that rare superhero who keeps his name after acquiring his incredible new powers) to become such an arrogant New York neurosurgeon, flaunting his skills at work and his Lamborghini Huracán outside the office.That’s an especially apt solution for this particular hero, since he’s been robbed of physical strength: The car crash left Doctor Strange practically handicapped, forcing him to learn tricks and spells to compensate for his lost dexterity.Since his enemies are martial arts experts with post-“Matrix” abilities, he has no choice but to get creative, conjuring shields and teleportation portals from plain air.Night Shyamalan’s soul-searching identity-crisis epic “Unbreakable,” which remains the gold standard for thinking people’s superhero movies.Yes, this new project shares the same look, feel, and fancy corporate sheen as the rest of Marvel’s rapidly expanding Avengers portfolio, but it also boasts an underlying originality and freshness missing from the increasingly cookie-cutter comic-book realm of late.Cut from the same mold as playboys Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Bruce Wayne (Batman), Strange easily might have become world’s most insufferable superhero.
But instead, it’s the very fact of this deeply insecure and wildly overcompensating character’s determination to prove himself — coupled with the setback by which texting while driving cripples his hands and very nearly derails him of that ambition — that makes “Doctor Strange” Marvel’s most satisfying entry since “Spider-Man 2,” and a throwback to M.
From this second-tier side character, the studio has created a thrilling existential dilemma in which its flawed hero’s personal search for purpose dovetails beautifully with forays into the occult New Age realm of magic and sorcery where Doctor Strange ultimately finds his calling.
While producer Kevin Feige deserves credit for bringing a master plan to Marvel’s big-screen slate, recruiting A-list talent on both sides of the camera and holding them to aesthetic standards that unify the various projects, those parameters are starting to feel every bit as restrictive as real-world physics can be to less-than-super movies.
Burn a bit of incense or something stronger before watching, and this already hyper-vivid 3D experience is liable to carry you away entirely, especially when Kaecilius proceeds to fold first staircases and later the streets of New York into an elaborate moving kaleidoscope, in which Doctor Strange proceeds to jump, slip, and slide like a pawn in an elaborate, multi-dimensional chess game.
While it’s frustrating that each of these movies must build to a generic showdown between our superhero and some all-powerful, earth-endangering supervillain, “Doctor Strange” takes that tedious inevitability and spins it off into an alternate Dark Dimension, where wit (both humor and intellect) prevails.
Like “Spider-Man” director Sam Raimi, Derrickson hails from the world of schlock horror, where he made such seat-jumpers as “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” and “Sinister,” and here, he transitions smoothly to a far bigger canvas (so big that Imax audiences will benefit from more than an hour of footage captured on the company’s large-format digital cameras).