Can the spirit heal the body? When arrogant and talented neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange horribly injures his hands in a car accident, he can no longer perform the life-saving surgeries that make him the man he is. And when he exhausts what medical science has to offer, Dr. Strange turns to stranger and stranger options.
A slightly smaller offering, “Doctor Strange” is necessary viewing as we educate ourselves on the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is a film that is part of the Marvel connective tissue. Not nearly as significant as Captain America’s last epic outing, this new magical cinematic hero will rank along side Ant-Man as a colorful addition, but not likely one that will compete with the more important players.
“Doctor Strange” is an origin story that finds a damaged medical doctor finding his true place in the less concrete metaphysical world. After suffering a life-changing injury in a texting while driving car accident, Dr. Stephen Strange (“Sherlock’s” Benedict Cumberbatch) spends his last dollar trying to restore his famed hands to their former surgical greatness. And those hands are injured in that special cinematic fashion—he retains all his fingers but just finds it difficult to move them. When he’s nearly lost hope, Strange travels to Kathmandu where is stumbles upon a group of sorcerers that may offer him some magical assistance.
Led by the mysterious Ancient One (played by Tilda Swinton, who is almost comically billed as being Celtic), Strange must swallow a whole lot of pride while learning a completely new discipline. But as Strange studies to become a sorcerer supreme, dark forces threaten the planet ushered in by Kaecilius (“Hannibal’s” Mads Mikkelsen), a former star pupil of the Ancient One. Inevitably, Strange will pitch a legendary battle seeking to save our world from oblivion.
“Doctor Strange” is fun viewing making use of trippy 3D mind-bending psychedelic effects that will remind viewers of “Inception.” Ultimately, however, there isn’t a whole lot of heart to this entry. Where “Ant-Man’s” everyman Scott Lang had a daughter to fight for, Stephen Strange is the kind of loner that only fellow MCU alter-ego Tony Stark could appreciate. Cumberbatch is perfect for this persona, having crafted just such a character on the BBC’s “Sherlock.” But viewers will likely find themselves amused by Strange rather than moved.
Watch for several tags at the end of the film that hint at what is to come in 2017. And with “Strange,” that centers on a character who turns to the spiritual to fight off our world’s foes, the superhero cinematic phenomenon will no doubt continue to rule the box office.