By Laurie Coker

Rating: A

Starting out this fall season, Doctor Strange, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, is a virtual cornucopia of visually stunning imagery and seamless CGI. Director Scott Derrickson, along with a plethora of writers, including Austin’s own C. Robert Cargill, give us a droll comic book hero with more arrogance and issues than Tony Stark (Ironman). Cumberbatch’s cynical, reluctant hero seems right at home in a world where he takes as big a beating as the bad guys and still manages to come out on top.

Top surgeon, Dr. Stephen Strange’s (Cumberbatch) ego and desire to cure the world are larger than anyone can tolerate – even girlfriend Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) . His hubris hovers haplessly over him as he careens carelessly around hairpin turns in his high-end sports car and virtually causes a horrific accident that destroys his hands, triggering irreparable nerve damage. Distraught and deflated, Strange spends his very last dime to seeks out specialists to fix his hands. Broken, alone and hopeless, he discovers his final chance lies with a mystic known only as the Ancient One (Tilsa Swinton). Under her tutelage, Strange becomes a formidable sorcerer, but even these incredible powers don’t daunt his desire for his old life. Still ,cynicism and all, Strange along with fellow sorcerer Baron Modor (Chiwetel Ejiofo) battle against the evil forces, lead by Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) a former student of the Ancient One.

Cumberbatch is to Dr. Strange, what witty and damaged Robert Downey Jr. is to Tony Stark and Ryan Reynolds is to Deadpool – glib, apathetic and mesmerizingly entertaining. He masters sarcasm and mockery as he manages to fill the screen – see this in 3D IMAX for sure – with his awe-inspiring presence. Gone is Strange’s room-stifling cockiness, replaced with a different kind of dominating manifestation of man and superhuman.

Doctor Strange offers the first taste of what is sure to be an exceptional film franchise and is as good an origin story as any in the Marvel genre thus far. Cumberbatch masterfully plays Surgeon Stephen Strange as fresh, funny and fantastically fierce. The film’s dialogue is crisp, creative and caustic when needs be and is delivered with clever ease by its impressive cast. Swinton does what she does best – creepy and eerily calming and Ejiofo plays straight man with composed, cool and collective ease.

Without a doubt, the PG-13 rated, Doctor Strange earns a solid A. It is perhaps thus far the most impressive of the Marvel movies. The “cloak of levitation” is one of the coolest weapons to date – it even has its own personality. Sit through the film’s final credits for a tantalizing bonus scene that suggests future films and a connection with Avengers. Cumberbatch cruises captivatingly through this film, leaving audiences wanting more.

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