Eppler: 'Strange' strays just enough from Marvel formula

Eppler: 'Strange' strays just enough from Marvel formula

By now, these Marvel comic book origin story movies follow a pretty strict formula: take a handsome jerk, give him a love interest he doesn't deserve, put him through a crisis, give him special powers and have him grow just enough to be heroic without losing that "smart aleck" edge, and stage a climactic battle in a heavily populated area.

Fortunately, "Doctor Strange" does just enough differently to stand out - most notably, the fact that it's not spending half its time trying to fit in with these other Marvel movies and set up sequels. It exists as its own thing, which is refreshing.

Benedict Cumberbatch is Steven Strange, a brilliant and prickly neurosurgeon.  He's cut from the same cloth as Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark, but Strange has more of an angry edge to him - admittedly tougher to get behind. That's why Cumberbatch is so perfectly cast. He has a history of making unlikable characters fascinating - going back to his work on "Sherlock."

When Strange gets in a car wreck and can no longer operate, he travels east to study under someone called The Ancient One, played by Tilda Swinton - hoping he can learn to heal his body faster. But it turns out, there's a little more to it than that.

Soon, Doctor Strange is deep in the mystic arts, and we watch the usual training montages to hurry things along. The fact that we're dealing with magic and sorcery means there's a lot the movie has to explain about how things work which gets a tad laborious. This isn't "Harry Potter" type  magic, though. These wizards bend space and time which makes for some stunning visuals.

It's almost too much for the eyes to take in, and it's particularly overwhelming in IMAX 3D - well worth the price of a ticket. "Doctor Strange" is an above-average comic book movie that establishes a character and a world that'll be fun to follow for more movies to come.
 

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