Director: Scott Derrickson
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton
3 (out of 5) Globes
At this point, watching the Marvel movies that drag on a single, increasingly jam-packed and convoluted story is a real drag — as fun as untangling a gnarly ball of Christmas lights. But the introductory installments can still be charming. “Ant-Man,” “Guardians of the Galaxy” and especially the new “Doctor Strange” get to thrive in their one-off-ness. They let their freak flags fly, show off some new toys, even make their own weird kinds of jokes. Then they get tragically sucked into the bigger, lumpier whole. The saddest part of the latter is the token bumper, when Thor shows up to conscript our caped crusader into his forthcoming threequel*. It’s like the leftfield downer ending of a ’70s movie you thought would end happily: Let Strange do Strange.
Far as brand recognizability goes, this latest entry finds Marvel scraping somewhere near the bottom of the barrel. Embodied by Benedict Cumberbatch, Doctor Strange is in fact a guy whose last name is “Strange” and who is actually a doctor. Having lost his rock star hands in a rock star car accident, our brilliant, arrogant but Beyonce joke-making hero journeys to the East for a mystery cure. There, he finds a secret cabal of sorcerers led by an ageless, hairless head magician known as the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton, reliably Tilda-y). She shows Strange a world beyond our own — one where rooms and corridors and whole cityscapes can be rearranged by a trained mind, where the entire universe can be visited in one trippy rush, where one’s astral form can leave the body and engage another loose spirit in a pretty nifty smackdown.