Stephen Strange, might I offer you some advice? Forget everything that you think you know.
If you're a Marvel comic fan, you'll know a damn sight more about Doctor Strange than I did going in to this film. Rest assured then - the Doc is brought to vivid life here by Benedict Cumberbatch, who's helped by stunning visual effects and a bit of sly storytelling magic.
To bring non-fans up to speed, Strange is a brilliant surgeon with an ego to match, until a disastrous injury renders him unable to do so much as pick up a scalpel. His quest to rehabilitate himself takes him all the way to the Himalayas and a mystic called the 'Ancient One'. There his scientific skepticism is literally blown away, as he learns about layers of reality and how to manipulate them in spectacular fashion to all kinds of ends. Proving gifted in this unusual field, he's faced with that age-old superhero choice - will he use his powers to serve himself or the greater good?
Guess which way he goes...
There was a point during this film adaptation when I had to remind myself, 'This is a Marvel movie - it's supposed to be daft'. That's the film-makers' trick, you see - to craft everything so beautifully and hit you with so many zippy one-liners that you forget you're watching a teen comic-book story. Most of the time at any rate.
Doctor Strange replaces the gadgets and weaponry of most other Marvel films with insane supernatural power-wielding. An early sequence recalls the literal city-bending scene from Inception and the story expands on such Inception-y visuals a lot, combining them with psychedelic trips reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey. It all melds into a visually eye-popping treat, while the driving story-line ensures it's more than a scrambled mess of effects.
Cumberbatch carries the story with the aplomb Sherlock fans will expect from him. He has all the magnetism the title role demands, even before he dons Strange's epic cape (see above). There's also a touching vulnerability once Strange's world falls apart, while his relationship with Rachel McAdams' fellow-surgeon is more complex than your usual movie love-interest. As for Strange's quest to Nepal, it has enough lightness of touch and humour to undercut all the 'Oriental search for self-knowledge' cliches. The identity of the 'Ancient One' is a particularly subversive twist - don't expect a long twirly beard. Oh, and menace is supplied in abundance by Mads Mikkelsen's bad-guy (but then he does play Hannibal Lecter on TV).
Doctor Strange is a richly designed visual wonder, but happily much more than that. With its neatly sketched characters and extravagant plot delivered with both conviction and wit, it's a welcome new dimension to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Quite a few new dimensions, come to think of it.