What happens when you take four Academy Award caliber actors (one Oscar winner), toss in a well respected European actor, and direct them using a guy best known for helming fright flicks? Welcome to the appropriately titled Marvel Comics flick - "Doctor Strange."


Benedict Cumberbatch ("Imitation Game","The Fifth Estate"), Chiwetel Ejiofor ("12 Years a Slave", "The Martian"), Tilda Swinton ("Michael Clayton", "Snowpiercer"), Rachel McAdams ("Spotlight", "Midnight in Paris") and and European star Mads Mikkelsen ("The Salvation", "Casino Royale") power this superbly crafted adaptation of Marvel's sorcerer based comic book hero. Scott Derrickson ("Sinister", "The Exorcism of Emily Rose") steps in to direct a film that takes a severe left turn in the Marvel Universe.


Swinton and Cumberbatch make it a habit of taking on tough off-kilter roles and they don't disappoint. There was some pouting about the choice of Swinton as the Ancient One who is depicted as a man in the comic books. Keep in mind however, that some of Tilde's best roles were her performances as a male character - "Man to Man" and "Orlando" got her feet wet and brought acclaim.

This film starts out with Cumberbatch as neurosurgeon Strange - extremely arrogant and very wealthy - as he amazes even himself. He has a tenuous relationship with another doctor, Christine (McAdams) who is put off by his cockiness and selfishness. That changes when Strange flies off the road and crashes his exotic sports car. He survives, but his hands are quite mangled.


With his hands wrecked and no traditional procedure available, he seeks an alternate treatment and believes he finds it when he gets word of a guy (Benjamin Bratt) who had similar nerve damage but suddenly can walk. This leads Strange to Nepal and a group of monastery-like people practicing a type of sorcery.


They are led by one called the Ancient One who seemingly is ageless. Strange is led to her by another master named Mordo (Ejifor) who sympathizes with Strange. Now comes the training and the learning of the old ways, ala Harry Potter.

festering in the background is a former master, Kaecilius (Mikkelsen) who seeks eternal life that is possible only with an allegiance with dark power - much like the Dark Side of The Force. Natch, he is the sworn enemy of The Ancient One and now all the other monks as he seeks forbidden ancient knowledge.


You could easily say "Doctor Strange" follows the roadmap previously drawn out by "Star Wars" and "Harry Potter", save the fact that "Doctor Strange" was conceived in 1963 - over a decade before George Lucas and J.K. Rowling created their characters. Still one can't help but notice the similar storylines that are set apart by a fairly humorous narrative.


While the special effects depicting the magic, like the effect of turning the universe into itself, is visually engaging, it is the humor that makes the movie entertaining. Humor that is impeccably delivered by an outstanding cast. Rather, a perfectly cast ensemble.


Tilde is marvelous though there is no question as to whether she is playing a man or woman - definitely a woman. Support character Benedict Wong is a hoot and Cumberbatch gives yet another performance that indicates it's only a matter of time before he carries home a statuette. Mikkelsen is pretty good as the villain, though the charcter was as well developed as a villain should be. We didn't get a chance to see if he is having as much fun with Kaecilius as he did with Le Chiffre.


As with every other Marvel Comics film, there are plenty of references to other characters plus the usual Stan Lee cameo. But the film left it wide open for future episodes if this one does well.


"Doctor Strange" is a hoot, especially for people awaiting the latest "Star Wars" episode and J.K. Rowling offering. The effects are great, the humor top notch and the performances by a strong cast can't be beat.   -- GEOFF BURTON