Film: “Doctor Strange”; Director: Scott Derrickson; Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt and Scott Adkins; Rating: ***1/2

Director Scott Derrickson’s “Doctor Strange” is an original story, based on the character of the same name from the Marvel Comic Universe. It is a story of a flawed hero’s personal search for a purpose in life. It also beautifully dovetails the realm of magic and sorcery into the narrative.

The film, though engrossing, and elegantly explosive is formulaic and borderlines on being dreary as it shares the same look, feel and sheen as the rest of Marvel’s ever-expanding Avengers portfolio.

This film is the tale of an acclaimed but egoistical, neurosurgeon, Doctor Stephen Strange, who after a fatal car accident and numerous experimental surgeries, is unable to lead a routine life. So he seeks the help of Jonathan Pangborn, a paraplegic who mysteriously was able to walk again.

Pangborn informs him about the alternate medicine, mysticism to be precise and directs him to Kamar-Taj, a healing centre in Kathmandu. There, he meets a group of sorcerers led by a Supreme Sorcerer – The Ancient One, who with her powers in manipulating dimensions and astral planes protects the world.

Doctor Strange begs her to teach him the secrets, which she does and soon he becomes a practitioner of both the mystical and martial arts.

Along with learning many powerful spells, Doctor Strange has a costume with two supernatural objects — the Cloak of Levitation and Eye of Agamotto — which give him added powers.

It is during his stay at Kamar-Taj that he gets drawn into a web to save the world from magic and mystical threats by The Ancient One’s detractors — Kaecilius and his followers.

Benedict Cumberbatch is to Doctor Strange what Robert Downey Jr is to Tony Stark in the Marvel Stable — arrogant, insecure and impatient. His brash genius pairs him as something of a blood brother to Tony. Similar, yet different, Benedict, employing an American accent and his British wit, instils a vulnerability and intelligence into Doctor Strange.

Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One with a clean shaven head and a formidable gaze, is rather strange. She does lack the persona of a powerful, yet vulnerable character she portrays.

Mads Mikkelsen, who can now boast of playing villains in both the Marvel and James Bond cosmos, is perfunctory as Kaecilius. With the evil in him missing, his performance is weak and lacklustre.

The others with moments of on-screen glory are Chiwetel Ejiofor as the sorcerer Mordo, Benedict Wong as the librarian Wong, Rachel McAdam as Christine Palmer (Doctor Strange’s love interest), Michael Stuhlbarg and Benjamin Bratt as Strange’s New York associates.

What makes the film interesting is Doctor Strange’s character and how the director, with all the technical brilliance, heaves the film notches up. The stunning visual effects with isometric and kaleidoscopic images are obviously outstanding. The computer generated images used in the film remind us how really important these are in the creation of powerful fantasy blockbusters.

The action sequences with seamless teleporting are perfectly choreographed and the visuals along with the video effects are astutely laid with Wyatt Smith and Sabrina Plisco’s fine edits. Ben Davis’s cinematography is fuzzy in parts.

The two brief end-credits teasers give us a taste of things to come. And, overall, “Doctor Strange” will appeal only to Marvel fans, for others it would be a rather outlandish entertainment.

By Troy Ribeiro

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