The movie “Dr. Strange” is a wonderful tale of adventure celebrating Eastern Mysticism whose powers apparently lie just beyond the perceptions of most mere mortals. The premise is that with only a little talent but perhaps some extended effort, enormous latent energies can be unleashed by even the most hardened skeptic.
The trick, of course, is to abandon the rational and scientific view of the world developed so painfully in the Western Tradition in favor of a superstitious admiration of clever fast talking shamans who invariably claim to be able to commune with the undeniably colossal and often inscrutable forces of nature. [Editor’s Note: This is sort of like modern day demagogues who majored in, but flunked out of, social studies only now to lead scientific crusades to again save the world from such imagined evils as the anti-science of human caused global warming.]
In any event, the hero is driven to such extremes by an egoistic desire to return to his previously over achieving and well rewarded life style after a tragic accident renders that physically impossible. But while debilitating for the demanding duties of a neurosurgeon, the infirmity is otherwise almost unnoticeable. Ironically and mysteriously it is only when he is forced into trying very hard not to try too hard and to develop a deep sense of humility born of an appreciation of personal incompetence, that he is finally able to see clearly and thus become the all-powerful master of the universe.
That is not to say the story line is shallow or inconsistent or even unbelievable given the constraints of the basic premise. Rather the plot is logically developed and with sufficient depth to arouse strong audience involvement. The tale contains the necessary assortment of heroes and villains with all the expected virtues and vices. But the characters are not stereotypical and instead display complex and surprising mixtures of both good and evil. Indeed, audience emotions are skillfully manipulated as assorted free agents interact and evolve as many colorful threads are woven into a rich tapestry of shifting motivations and allegiances.
Strangely adding to the realism of the story is the notoriously unfortunate fact that modern medicine remains a complicated mixture of art and science and that, even in the West, is still mysterious. The love interest is underplayed but charming. The hero remains cultured, funny, insightful, and non-threatening throughout. The many special effects are breathtaking and far enough outside the genre of ubiquitous science fiction themes as to refreshingly relieve the tedium. The action scenes, with perhaps the exception of needles in the operating room, are sufficiently exciting without any nerve wrenching obsession with blood and gore. Bad guys are summarily dispatched and disappear in little well-deserved blazes of glory.
This is a nice and entertaining movie, if somewhat unusual. But all in all, I could easily recommend it and even might suggest watching until the very last credit had been presented.