Dr. Strange, B
Rated PG-13, 116 minutes
The swiftly entertaining, fun new superhero flick "Dr. Strange" is a different type of superhero, battling evil, mystic forces of another realm that threaten our time and space. It's essentially Marvel-meets-The Matrix, though the lead actor here, "Sherlock Holmes'" Benedict Cumberbatch, has greater charm and one-liners than Keanu Reeves' Neo ever thought about.
Dr. Stephen Strange's (Cumberbatch) life changes after a car accident robs him of the use of his hands. When traditional medicine fails him, he looks for healing, and hope, in a mysterious enclave called Kamar-Taj led by The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton, badass as ever here). He quickly learns that the enclave is at the front line of a battle against unseen dark forces bent on destroying reality. Chief among them is Kaecilius (Danish) actor Mads Mikkelsen, perfect here), who has stolen some important books from Kamar-Taj so he can summon the Dark Dimension to overtake the Earth.
Directed by "Sinister's" Scott Derrickson with a script co-written by Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill, the original, action-packed and funny "Dr. Strange," a lesser Marvel character that originated in the 1960's, on the surface the film seems a tough sell though in execution it works much better than you might expect, however admittedly it's all a bit cheesy in a "snatch the pebble from my hand" type vibe, and while it's visually enthralling at times, "Strange" at times seems strangely fake, occasionally overrun with some heavy CGI.
The action sequences and fight scenes are unsurprisingly "Dr. Strange's" highlight, and Derrickson and Cargill also do well by giving Strange (intelligently played by Cumberbatch) some tongue-in-cheek humor to broaden his appeal and to provide some comic relief as Dr. Strange and company, including the Ancient One, fight some unseen forces. Fans of the comics will notice some significant changes in the film version, notably in casting and changing some characters: The Ancient One, played in a terrific turn from the lithe Oscar-winning Swinton, was originally an Asian male in the comics; as well, chief librarian at the Kamar-Taj, Wong, played by Benedict Wong, is less a servant stereotype and more of an active character here.
Oscar-nominee Rachel McAdams is given little to do here but appear angry or befuddled, similar to the role of Oscar-winner Natalie Portman in the "Thor" series, while Oscar-nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor from "12 Years a Slave" is solid as one of Dr. Strange's sidekicks, Mordo. In a unique twist, that's Cumberbatch also playing the evil entity Dormammu who is summoned to take over the world - so essentially in the end, Cumberbatch is battling himself, which may have been the script's intent.
Speaking of Thor, stay over the usual end credits scene that alludes to future Marvel entries. In a battle of the mystic forces and the space-time continuum, the enjoyable and occasionally compelling "Dr. Strange" is a fresh take from Marvel and worth the time, also grounded well by the appealing Cumberbatch and that unique cape of his, in spite of some excessive CGI.