What It's About: Eye-popping and mind-bending, "Doctor Strange" is a mystical mysterious detour in your customary Marvel universe.
Thrilling to a fault, what makes this movie of comic book source material so magical is its successful blend of action, adventure and comedy.
Its drama feels real, despite its weirdness, and the injection of humor and heart keep us engage -- even when it gets really trippy.
Brilliant neurosurgeon Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is badly injured in a horrific car accident, and the nerve damage is so severe that he can't practice.
While researching experimental treatment, he stumbles upon curious teachings in Kathmandu that focus on the mind rather than the body. He's desperate, so he spends his last dime to go.
Under the tutelage of The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and her right-hand man Mordo (Chiwetol Ejiofor), he develops sorcery powers that defy logic. Her enemy Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), a former disciple who went to the dark side, and his good squad are out to destroy them.
Strange's aptitude for and mastery of the mystical make him a natural to fight evil in the world.
Epic battles bending space and time rage, and the visuals are a stunning kaleidoscope of psychedelic dreams and geometric shapes, with a nod to artist M.C. Escher and "The Matrix."
An unfamiliar mythology is fluidly transferred to screen with deft skill by director Scott Derrickson ("Sinister)."
Derrickson also adapted Steve Ditko's comic book, along with Jon Spaihts ("Prometheus") and C. Robert Cargill, his "Sinister" collaborator.
Performances: Has a comic-book movie adaptation ever had this many Oscar nominees and winners among its cast? The talented cast elevates this film with their smarts and wit.
Wearing a very cool Cloak of Levitation, Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch ("The Imitation Game") is all-in, superbly capturing Strange's cerebral intellect and ego.
Oscar winner Tilda Swinton ("Michael Clayton"), as the bald guru, is believable speaking the required philosophical mumbo-jumbo.
Oscar nominee Chiwetol Ejiofor ("12 Years a Slave") also lends gravitas as the noble sidekick, while Benedict Wong ("The Martian") is a hoot as the no-nonsense librarian at the Nepal compound.
Oscar nominee Rachel McAdams ("Spotlight") as the ER doctor Christine Palmer has the stock ex-girlfriend role, but she's always an appealing presence.
What Works: The visual effects are a spectacular element, and integrated seamlessly into the action. It builds on the dimensional dazzle first seen in "Inception."
Michael Giachino's score enhances the danger and fantasy in equal measure.
What Doesn't Work: The more "Twilight Zone" aspects can get a little silly — and made my head hurt just a little bit —but overall, the filmmakers aren't excessive in piling on the bells and whistles.
With its top-shelf cast and impeccable technical qualities, "Doctor Strange" is magical genre entertainment.
Director: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetol Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt and Benedict Wong.
Rated: PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action throughout, and an intense crash sequence.