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Strange Magic

'Doctor Strange' is a 'Harry Potter' for adults

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SHERLOCK OHMS  Marvel’s raid of A-list actors now includes best-of-his-generation Benedict Cumberbatch.
  • SHERLOCK OHMS Marvel’s raid of A-list actors now includes best-of-his-generation Benedict Cumberbatch.

The most unusual material in the highly likable Doctor Strange is a battle scene in Hong Kong. Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a magus of great power, a rocky American accent and some little superciliousness, arrives at a typical scene of Marvel comics civic destruction, and casts a time-reversing spell. Even as Strange fights off a small pack of evil sorcerers, the buildings reassemble in the air, burst water mains slow to a trickle and reconnect and neon signs unshatter into glittering clouds of glass and return to blazing life.

The movie begins with Stephen Strange, a talented but insufferable surgeon, crashing in his sports car. As a result, his hands are ruined. Unsuccessful operations drain his bank account. On a quest, Strange heads to Katmandu, following the path blazed by Lost Horizon's Hugh Conway, Lamont "the Shadow" Cranston and Bruce Wayne. He comes to a small monastery run by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), a Celtic sorceress who tries to persuade Strange to open his mind to the mystic world. When that doesn't work, she pops his astral presence right out of his body.

Doctor Strange may be the most drug-friendly movie to come along in some time, though being a little bit stoned would take some of the edge off the dialogue, such as the transition from TV medical-show snark to the New Age, fortune-cookie affirmations offered by the Ancient One. As Strange takes up the defense of Earth against the interdimensional terror known as Dormammu, it's satisfying to watch Cumberbatch's relinquishing of ego.

The movie is a Harry Potter for adults. As a novice, Strange's spells sputter like a defective Fourth of July sparkler; as a well-trained magician, he sweeps mandalas of fire into being. Evidently, when you get really good at magic, you can even fold cities like origami.

'Doctor Strange' is playing in wide release in the North Bay.

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