Oh, sure, it certainly looks different from other Marvel movies, but even its differences are familiar—think Inception dreams in The Matrix. But the busy CGI can’t hide the yawning emptiness where the story’s emotional core should be. Benedict Cumberbatch wields a distractingly terrible American accent as brilliant, arrogant neurosurgeon Stephen Strange, whose search for healing after a terrible accident leads him to Nepal. There a sorcerer known as the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) inducts him into “Kamar-Taj,” the “mystical Avengers” who protect Earth from arcane threats, including a rogue member of the group (he’s not much of a villain, despite the best efforts of Mads Mikkelsen). Not scary enough, not bonkers enough, and not funny enough, Strange is clearly tired of the superhero origin story; it treads water to get to the bits when Stephen can play the master sorcerer. There is real power in the finale as the movie sets up an exciting new villain for Strange’s next outing, and the mid-credits sequence that brings Stephen onto the larger Marvel scene is fab. We should have just skipped all this and jumped right into Doctor Strange 2.
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