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doctorstrangeAbout five minutes into Doctor Strange, Marvel’s newest entry into their global cinematic empire, the world goes catawampus. People of a certain age will know exactly what that means. People younger than that will understand catawampus—perhaps too well—once they have seen this movie.

At about the same time as the world twists in on itself, Tilda Swinton, as The Ancient One, runs out of bubblegum[1]. It is at this moment, while Swinton out-Neos Keanu Reeves, that you realize you are in for a bumpy ride and you had best hang on for dear life.

Unfortunately, the movie then has to give us stock superhero origin story number three: rich jerk discovers the true meaning of life and also really cool superpowers. You can’t blame the filmmakers for this, nor even Marvel. It is endemic to comic books as a whole, where a half-dozen backstories are spread among dozens upon dozens of costumed crime fighters as though they are nothing more than soup cans lined up in rows[2].

Doctor Strange is saved from becoming a dull recitation on the responsibility of great power by the aforementioned visuals, which repeat themselves often enough to heighten your enjoyment of the film without lasting so long as to permanently scar your optic nerves. The film also benefits greatly from the scintillating performances of its cast.

It is, perhaps, fitting one of the themes of this movie is bargaining with the devil, since someone at Marvel has clearly struck a deal that keeps landing perfect actors. From Robert Downey, Jr. to Chris Evans to Chris Hemsworth to Scarlett Johannson to Samuel L. Jackson to Chadwick Boseman to Paul Rudd to Tom Holland and now to Benedict Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch embodies Dr. Stephen Strange so perfectly, he almost doesn’t have to act. His costars: Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelson, and Benedict Wong, are also worthy of praise. The one disappointment is Rachel McAdams as love interest Christine Palmer, but the failure is less due to the actor and more to the lack of a decent part. She tries, but her character could have been reduced to “sort-of-friendly colleague” and worked just as well.

Marvel has a formula for their cinematic universe, and Doctor Strange doesn’t mess with the formula. Why should it? The formula works. But it does one thing new—it introduces magic to the MCU, and future films will be all the richer for it. And it makes magic so slick, so eye-popping visual, you can’t help but want more of it. Yes, Marvel keeps serving us the same dish, but it is so good, and always just a little differently seasoned, that you should keep coming back for more.

[1] As in “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick butt…and I’m all out of bubblegum.”

[2] An Andy Warhol reference. Kind of obscure, and sounded way better in my head than it reads.