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Dr. Strange (7/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 115 minutes.

OK for children.

Except for horror and silly chick flicks, if I made a list of movie genres I loathe, superhero fantasies would be at the top. Which is why for me to give this a positive rating means that there must be something in it other than the ridiculous story. Thinking about it, I probably would have felt the same way about Homerís Odyssey had I been a critic in 800 BC. Iím not a big fan of fantasy.

Dr. Strange is nothing if not ludicrous fantasy, set in a world that never existed and never will exist. It starts out with Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) as an arrogant, brilliant surgeon who is in some sort of a romantic relationship with Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), a character about as irrelevant to the play as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were to Hamlet.

Dr. Strangeís hands get injured and he goes into a huge funk, ending up in Nepal (where else?) looking for The Ancient One who has been highly recommended by Jonathan Pangborn (Benjamin Bratt) on a basketball court. The Ancient One turns out to be Tilda Swinton, who has lost her hair throughout the eons she has been in existence. Her right hand man is Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), another character with a questionable raison díÍtre. Somebody had to play these minor characters like Palmer and Mordo, but I guess they picked stars like McAdams and Ejiofor to draw in an audience.  However, the audience for these fantasies is going to attend regardless who plays the characters.

After Dr. Strange comes under the sway of The Ancient One, she gets him involved in an intergalactic battle with Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsson), who plays a kind of Lucifer to The Ancient Oneís God in this tale that seems to mirror the story of creation in the first book of the Bible, Genesis.

What follows is the movie, which is the battle between good and evil and multiple universes involving gravity-defying buildings and locales, with some of the best special effects you will ever see and, without question, the best 3-D I have ever seen. It was so good that I actually got dizzy watching some of the scenes. It is because of these special effects and 3-D that I stretched to give this a positive rating, certainly not the fantasy or the sophomoric philosophizing that goes on between the characters.

Equally wasted along with McAdams is Mikkelsson, one of the better actors of his generation. Playing a role like this, in which he walks around and scowls with heavy makeup around his eyes, is a desecration of his talent. There was probably a lot of money here, but I wish Mads had eschewed it.

This is actually more of a comedy than any kind of serious dramatic effort. Itís an ďentertainment,Ē and, as such, isnít bad.