The strange thing about ‘Doctor Strange’ is that it manages to exceed the high expectations

Benedict Cumberbatch is ‘Doctor Strange’

“I believe we live in a multiverse of universes.” – Author and physicist Michio Kaku

Kathmandu is the capital city of Nepal.  It is also the location of “Kamar-Taj,” the secret home of the “Ancient One” (Tilda Swinton).  Doctor Strange opens in the libary at Kamar-Taj where “Kaecillius” (Mads Mikkelsen) and his zealots break in and murder the librarian.  Then he steals pages from one of the forbidden texts of the Ancient One and flees.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Rachel McAdams in ‘Doctor Strange’

“Doctor Steven Vincent Strange” (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a renowned neurosurgeon.  To label him as arrogant is a major understatement.  He makes retired neurosurgeon and former presidential candidate Ben Carson, and fictional neurosurgeon Derek Sheppard of “Grey’s Anatomy” fame look downright humble by comparison.  His career as a surgeon but not his arrogance is destroyed in a car accident.  In spite of support from his colleague and former lover “Christine Palmer” (Rachel McAdams), he sees himself as having no future.  At least until he learns of a man named “Jonathan Pangborn” (Benjamin Bratt).  Pangborn suffered a severed spinal cord and yet somehow is able to walk and live a full life now.  Strange asks Pangborn how this came to be and Pangborn tells him the answer is to be found in Kamar-Taj.

Using what little resources he has left, after unsuccessfully pursuing every experimental procedure to restore his hands to allow him to return to performing surgery, Doctor Strange journeys to Kathmandu and searches for Kamar-Taj.  Eventually he encounters “Mordo” (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who takes him to meet the Ancient One.  Initially she refuses to teach him because of the aforementioned arrogance, but eventually he becomes her student.

Tilda Swinton and Benedict Cumberbatch in 'Doctor Strange'
Tilda Swinton and Benedict Cumberbatch in ‘Doctor Strange’

As her student he learns of the existence of the multiverse and the three Sanctums (Hong Kong, London and New York) that protect the Earth from other dimensions.  That the sorcerers, led by the Ancient One who is also the Supreme Sorcerer protect those Sanctums to protect the world.

When Kaecilius and his zealots begin to attack the Sanctums in an effort to allow “Dormammu” from the dark dimensions access to Earth, Doctor Strange must help the Ancient One, Mordo and “Wong” (Benedict Wong) who is the new librarian at Kamar-Taj defend the Sanctums against this assault.  To give more details than these is to engage in a level of spoiler would be to do a disservice to those who might read this review prior to viewing the film.

Mads Mikkelsen in 'Doctor Strange'
Mads Mikkelsen in ‘Doctor Strange’

The casting, except possibly that of Tilda Swinton is close to perfection.  Considering that in the Marvel comic books, as created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, the Ancient One was an Asian man, whitewashing is a charge that has been leveled against the film’s producers.  It isn’t that Swinton wasn’t outstanding in the role, as she was.  Given the current diversity dialogue underway in the entertainment industry this is something that cannot be ignored.  Benedict Cumberbatch is marvelous (pun intended) in the lead role.  Mads Mikkelsen always gives great villain.  Rachel McAdams’ role is small but she makes the most of every moment.

Doctor Strange is the 14th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  It is as good or better than any of the first 13 when it comes to visual imagery, special effects and action sequences.  One semi-spoiler.  Don’t be fooled by the first post-credits Easter Egg and head for the exit.  Wait for the entire end of movie credits to roll.  You won’t be sorry.

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