Director: Scott Derrickson

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen

IT is said that scientists only understand about five per cent of the universe.

The big questions in life remain largely unanswered while we can never really be sure if our perception of reality is all there is.

This may be a bit of a philosophical way to start a film review – particularly a $165 million Marvel production – but Doctor Strange has big ideas to match its epic story.

Scott Derrickson's film is not your typical superhero origin story. It is not just heroes and villains in a punch-up.

It is a mind-bending movie where reality can be manipulated, time can run backwards, multiple universes co-exist together and people's spirits can drift into the astral plane.

That is obviously a lot to take in so let me rewind.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays Dr Stephen Strange, an arrogant but gifted neurosurgeon at a hospital in New York City's Greenwich Village.

He loses his surgical abilities, livelihood and reputation after a horrific car crash.

And when conventional medicine – the thing he has relied on all his life – fails him he heads to Kamar-Taj in Kathmandu, Nepal, in search of 'The Ancient One' (Tilda Swinton).

Strange is no true believer and sees it as a last ditch attempt to restore his ruined surgeon's hands but his cynical mind is blown wide open by what he sees, experiences and then learns.

The joy of watching a film like this is that the special effects have caught up with the grand themes and, unusual and refreshing for a comic book hero origin story, there is not a dull moment.

Doctor Strange is not so much science vs faith but science vs the mystic arts and a world much greater than our own.

This is matched with perfect pacing with the film's world starting small (apart from the dizzying opening scenes) before getting bigger and bigger.

So by the time Strange is battling dark mystics led by Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), a former disciple of The Ancient One, you will be quite used to portals being opened to alternate dimensions and buildings folding in on themselves in the style of Inception.

Doctor Strange is a huge, enjoyable spectacle and the best Marvel Studios film in years that does not forget about humour and character development.

With further films and appearances already in the pipeline, a repeat prescription is just what the doctor ordered.

RATING: 8.5/10