You know you’ve seen jaw-dropping action scenes in movies. What you don’t know is how jaw-droppingly awesome the action is in Doctor Strange. Please, dear reader, if you enjoy grand visual spectacles that push modern visual effects to new limits, do not miss this movie.
Director Scott Derrickson (Sinister) takes the sidewalk and road bending of Inception to the next level and then some. Characters fight on the side of buildings, open portals to different dimensions, skyscrapers split in half, floors change shape and size, and more. So much more. These aren’t just exciting action scenes, these are fantastic visual sequences that truly have to be seen to be believed.
The story holds up well enough. Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a brash, arrogant neurosurgeon. His work is his life, which explains why he ignored a relationship with ER doctor Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) for the sake of his career. As happens, life soon humbles him.
A car accident leaves him unable to use his hands, and therefore unable to work as a surgeon. After numerous failed fixes, hope emerges as Strange learns of a paraplegic (Benjamin Bratt) who’s able to walk again. Soon Strange is off to Nepal to meet The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), a sorcerer with mystical powers who, in her own words, “reorients the spirit to better heal the body.” Strange’s superhero training henceforth begins.
The villain is Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), one of The Ancient One’s former students who wants to manipulate time and welcome a dark lord to Earth. Along with The Ancient One, her protégée Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and a spunky librarian named Wong (Benedict Wong), Strange tries to stop Kaecilius and his zealots from ruining the world.
How does this fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Wong explains that the Avengers protect the world from physical threats while The Ancient One and her sorcerers protect it from mystical threats. Strange also wears the “Time” Infinity Stone, which is the fifth of six stones that will be revealed before the next Avengers movie in May 2018.
A word of warning to the easily queasy: Though the film looks great in IMAX 3D, note that (as always) depending on where you sit even the slightest head tilt may result in a possibly headache-inducing blurry image. Truly, some sequences are visually overwhelming. Usually that’s a good thing, but here, given the scale of the images, it can feel like a bit much. If you have a big meal beforehand, and/or are uncomfortable with intricate surgical procedures, go ahead and watch in regular old 2D. You will still enjoy it, and save a few bucks in the process.
Cumberbatch – who almost didn’t do the film because he was busy with Hamlet on stage in London – handles himself well amidst all the computer-generated images surrounding him, as does the rest of the cast. There’s also a decent amount of humor here, mostly from Strange’s wise guy remarks, that the otherwise gloomy movie certainly needs. Ultimately, though, it’s the bold and imaginative images that make you say “wow” that’ll have you leaving the movie on a high.