A Review of Marvel’s Doctor Strange

By Kaleb Lyonnais

Last November, the latest in a increasingly-long line of Marvel movies premiered,  Doctor Strange. It was directed by Scott Derrickson and starred Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular Stephen Strange, a neurosurgeon turned sorcerer.

Doctor Strange had the usual Marvel mix of witty one-liners, clever-sounding jargon, fight scenes, and a staggeringly-arrogant protagonist. Unlike previous Marvel heroes, Doctor Strange is a sorcerer who fought not by punching his problems away but by warping reality.

The first act focuses on Stephen Strange, a neurosurgeon known for performing operations on what other doctors call inoperable. He is also arrogant to the extent of only operating when it can bring him glory. In a instance of poetic justice, Strange damages his hands in a car accident. He is the only person capable of fixing his own nerves, but he can’t because his hands now shake to much to perform surgery.

With his career ruined, Strange turns to anything that might help him. He eventually finds a group who can help him, but only if he opens his mind to worlds beyond the one he knows. Studying under the Ancient One, Strange learns how to manipulate energies from other dimensions (which is a mouthful, so most people call it magic).

Alongside fellow sorcerers Karl Mordo and Wong, Strange defends the Earth from Kaecilius, a former student of the Ancient One who serves the apocalyptically-powerful entity, Dormammu.

The idea of a movie adaptation of the Doctor Strange comic book had previously been dismissed as unfilmable. Aside from featuring magic in a franchise otherwise skeptical of the supernatural, Doctor Strange has a habit of travelling to other dimensions. The original artwork by Steve Ditko is best described as sixties psychedelia crossed with an M. C. Escher drawing.

Doctor Strange overcame these difficulties using special effects that work seamlessly into the scene, from a semi-sentient levitating robe to bending Manhattan like a Rubik’s cube. The parallel dimensions are given such detail that they look real despite violating the laws of physics. The sorcery of this movie is astounding.

The portrayal of Dormammu, the dread of the Dark Dimension who wants to destroy Earth, was particularly interesting. Being made from other-worldly energy, the Dormammu is drawn in the comics as a strange-colored anthropomorphic fire. Although this works well in the comics, after the stunning effects in the rest of the movie it would be anti-climatic for the ultimate antagonist to be a flame monster. Instead the cinematic version was a ripple of darkness with an intimidating voice.

The acting is not to be overlooked. Cumberbatch did an excellent job portraying Strange’s journey from an selfish egomaniac to a compassionate hero. Other cast members included Chiwetel Ejiofor as Karl Mordo, Benedict Wong as Wong (yes, the actor named Wong played the character named Wong), Rachel McAdams as Strange’s colleague and ex-girlfriend Christine Palmer, Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius, and Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One.

Doctor Strange was produced by Kevin Feige, who also produced every other Marvel Studios movie, but stands out by having minimal tie-ins. People who have never seen the other movies would have no issue understanding this one. On the other hand, the final scene (along with the mid-credits scene) set up other movies to reference this one.

At the box office Doctor Strange made $677 million, turning a great profit from its $165 million budget. Considering this, and Marvel’s love of sequels, Doctor Strange 2 is very likely. One character has already been set up to become the sequel’s villain, with many characters from the comic book ready to be added, such as Strange’s love interest Clea, the villain Nightmare, the aptly-named Mindless Ones and many others. In particular, Strange’s ally, Eternity, would be interesting to see in a movie, since Eternity is the manifestation of the universe.

With Marvel busy making other movies the earliest a sequel could be released is 2019, when Marvel has three yet-to-be-titled movies scheduled. In the meantime Doctor Strange is set to appear in Thor: Ragnarok in November, Avengers: Infinity War in 2018, and Avengers 4 (currently without a subtitle) in 2019. The DVD of Doctor Strange was released in February 2017; it includes previews for upcoming Marvel movies as special features. We hope to see the next Doctor Strange, along with many more Marvel features, hold up to this standard of quality.

 

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