“DOCTOR STRANGE” My rating: B- (Opens wide on Nov. 4)
115 minutes |MPAA rating: PG-13
At this stage of the game Marvel movies have fallen into a predictable pattern, especially the third-act city-leveling smackdown (it’s like it’s guaranteed in the Constitution or something).
About two years ago I decided I was over the whole superhero thing. Unless, of course, you can show me something new.
“Dr. Strange” takes me halfway there, giving us a spell-casting protagonist who has more in common with Harry Potter than your usual Spandexed bicep bulger.
It’s got a solid first hour in which our ego-driven hero (see “Iron Man”) recognizes the errors of his ways and gets his head turned around.
And a second hour in which a lot of shit gets blown up.
The wild card here is Benedict Cumberbatch, PBS’s current Sherlock and an actor of such range and integrity that I’m willing to give a chance to just about any project to which he lends his name.
Dr. Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) is a ground-breaking neurosurgeon. Even among his self-aggrandizing colleagues he’s noted as a self-serving asshole who peers down his aquiline nose at lesser mortals and lives the life of a solitary genius. In the past he had a fling with surgeon Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), but his most enduring relationships are with his fancy sports car, plush apartment and his own self.
A highway accident leaves Strange with crushed paws. Unable to hold a scalpel, he sees his life dripping away and goes on an international hunt for some sort of treatment that can reverse his physical infirmities.
Which is how he ends up in Katmandu in an esoteric school run by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton, bald and looking like a visiting space alien). The Ancient One and her lieutenant Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) put our hero through a physical and mental marathon, breaking down his sense of self, opening him up to life on the astral plane, and filling his head — and the screenplay — with enough metaphysical mumbo jumbo to make Scientology seem a viable option.