The latest film from Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a bit “strange.” I have to admit, Doctor Strange is one of those characters from Marvel who isn’t familiar to me because I’ve never read his comics in my youth other than maybe a couple of cross-overs. Not that I dislike him or anything; it’s just that there are so many superheroes and characters in the Marvel and DC universes that I simply don’t have the time to cover them all even if I had the allowance to buy every comic book of every title.
In a way this is refreshing because, as in the case of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ I don’t have to wait impatiently for the familiar obligatory origin story to be told, in this instance that of a brilliant but egotistical neurosurgeon played by Benedict Cumberbatch who’s vain (not stupid) enough to attempt multi-tasking with a tablet while driving his speeding sports car in the rain on a slippery mountain highway, which proved to be a fatal mistake and his undoing as a surgeon. The “unfortunate” accident also proved to be fateful and maybe even fortuitous, however, as it placed him on a path to enlightenment and becoming part of a group of mystical warriors entasked with protecting our world against magical and mystical threats, much like The Avengers protect earth against physical threats as the first among them known as the “Ancient One” (Tilda Swinton) succinctly put it during his orientation.
While it is derivative and borrowed liberally from oriental Buddhist traditions and mysticism as well as the good-pupil-turned-bad soap operatic tragedy of ‘Star Wars’ and other stories, ‘Doctor Strange’ nonetheless managed to be yet another solid addition to the MCU that is mind-blowing, entertaining and smart. The reality-bending special effects (which is best viewed in IMAX 3-D) are reminiscent of ‘Inception’ with its topsy-turvy skylines but are fun to watch. My favorite scene is probably the one at the end of the movie when Doc Strange insists on striking a bargain with “Dormammu,” a malevolent god-like being from the Dark Dimension, which serves as a perfect example of never-say-die (no pun intended) persistence.