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Marvel's Cinematic Universe Expands Again With Doctor Strange
One reckless moment forever changed the life of Dr. Stephen Strange. In the movie Doctor Strange, this gifted New York surgeon (Benedict Cumberbatch) gets into an auto accident where he loses the use of his hands. With finances nearly drained and conventional medicine unable to help, he travels to the Kamar-Taj in Kathmandu. He goes there because he'd read about and met a man named Jonathan Pangborn (Benjamin Bratt) who'd gone there and been cured of his paralysis. On his arrival there, he meets Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), one of the sorcerers who eventually teaches him martial arts and how to harness other abilities. He also gets guidance from Wong (Benedict Wong), who guards the Kamar-Taj and its relics. The head of the Kamar-Taj is known simply as the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), who shows Strange some of the powers she has, and becomes surprised at how quickly the new sorcerer learns.
The Kamar-Taj, though, does face a serious problem. Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), a former sorcerer there, leads a group who has killed the Kamar-Taj librarian and stolen some pages that could give the group immortality. They use the stolen material to summon the being Dormammu from the Dark Dimension, where time doesn't exist. This act destroys the London Sanctum, one of three on earth connected to the Kamar-Taj by portals. In addition to working with his new mentors, Strange also calls on his old colleague and lover, Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), for her expertise when Kaecilius inflicts casualties on the sorcerers. After leaving the London Sanctum and leaving the New York Sanctum, Kaecilius and his allies work to bring the Dark Dimension to the last Sanctum in Hong Kong. Doctor Strange devises a plan that doesn't conform with Kamar-Taj rules.
Doctor Strange, based on the comic created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, is a solid action picture with impressive special effects. Director and co-writer Scott Derrickson deviates from the character stories in the comics, but still leaves a mystical nature about the sorcerers and their actions. Mordo tells Strange to forget everything he has learned, which lead the doctor to learn more about the secrets of the Kamar-Taj as his body jeals and gains new powers. Even as Kaecilius tries to avenge the deaths of many close to him, he also understands from an early encounter that the Doctor learns quickly. While Mordo and Wong warn not to tamper with nature, Strange becomes fascinated by the things he can do, and discovers truths his fellow sorcerers thought they could keep hidden. The Doctor, though, is a man of science, and very self-assured, just like Tony Stark. He takes Mordo's advice to places Mordo never expected. As has been the case with many Marvel movies, viewers should stay until the very end to see what the film reveals.
Cumberbatch delivers a sharp performance as Doctor Strange, who absorbs the knowledge of the universe as he may be the one who has to save it. While Stark may primarily work with government contractors and the military, Strange ultimately has no national sentiments, but he does embrace the universe he has known and comes to know. Strange always acts on instinct and experience, as he shows in an early scene where he stops fellow physician Nicodemus West (Michael Stuhlbarg) from pronouncing a patient dead. Ejiofor and Wong add fine support as sorcerers who have differing views on the abilities thar Strange gains, while Swinton adds the right amount of wisdom and benevolence as the Ancient One. Mikkelsen, who has played memorable villains in Casino Royale and the Hannibal TV series, does well as Kaecilius, a being bent on righting a perceived wrong. McAdams and Bratt add solid support in smaller roles. Chris Hemsworth puts in an appearance as Thor, while Lee makes his cameo as a bus passenger.
Doctor Strange expands the MCU in new and exciting ways. A doctor who seeks healing gets that and so much more when he visits a place with so many secrets unknown to most men. As a man of great knowledge, he embraces the new knowledge and the powers he couldn't dream of having as a surgeon. He puts his ability to problem solve to use as he faces a force intent on changing the world as people know it. Stephen Strange may be learning new things, but they are not those things he would ever have acquired in medical school.
On a scale of zero to four stars, I give Doctor Strange 3.5 stars. Physician, heal the world.