One aspect I love about the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is how each film tries to differentiate itself from what came before and how each film pushes forward a different theme/genre within the universe ultimately expanding on what we know so far. Sure there is a formulaic approach underlying the MCU but the surrounding material that fills the variables does its best to characterise the film as unique with a distinct personality. Doctor Strange introduces the relevance of magic (and the multiverse) within the MCU and the dark forces present eager to sink their darkness within the Earth and its populace.
Doctor Strange is a story about a genius surgeon who loses the use of his hands after an accident. Out of options and possibilities within medical science, he finds hope within a similar case that leads him to Kathmandu. There he meets the Ancient One and learns that what he knows about the world is just a fraction of actuality.
The inclusion of eastern mysticism with the introduction of magic differentiates Doctor Strange from the majority of other Hollywood films focusing on the magical arts of the world. Not only is there a foundation to work with but there is an overarching relevance to the dialog within the film. I have a genuine interest and fascination in the spiritual side of existence so it is a pleasant surprise to see those elements so strongly channeled within a major blockbuster. There is power in our spirit and the belief that fuels our existence. While I realise this is a work of fiction, not everything covered and conveyed is totally out there, and for this reason I tremendously enjoyed the moments between Doctor Strange and the Ancient One as she teaches him more about the world he lives in and its possibilities, of the endless possibilities available to him. Even if secondary to the story of Doctor Strange, there is a message within the journey.
The fighting sequences were amazing. Creatively tripping, stylized and satisfyingly exhilarating, one can’t help but acknowledge the effect magic has on the world in the MCU. Akin to how Stephen’s world was bent into an unrecognisable existence at the revelation of his own ignorance and arrogance, so to are the capabilities of magic in the minds of the wise and liberated. Magic not only allows the user to manipulate their own internal energy, but it opens up the possibility of bending reality, time and perception to their whims. As such ‘natural law’ becomes less a law and more a guideline to abide by.
Through the battles and outcomes that result, the grey area is continually challenged and questioned. Just because one can, does this mean they should? If lives or the future were at stake, would one be justified? It is within the possibilities of magic that the potential to perverse “reality” is created. And through that freedom, we find the lines between good and bad intertwining towards their respective ends.
It is obvious why the MCU chose Benedict Cumberbatch to portray Doctor Strange, why they held off on filming until he was available. Cumberbatch portrays arrogance in characters in such a loveable manner and this quality was such a vital one as arrogance is a defining feature of Doctor Strange, especially in this origin film. Another element Cumberbatch portrayed well is confidence in his calculative and problem solving abilities. It is through that confidence that the viewers find Doctor Strange’s ability to analyse a situation and formulate a strategy to combat his opponent, believable. We aren’t left dumbfounded as to why, but excited in how Doctor Strange went about doing so. It is this problem solving ability that will set Doctor Strange apart from the rest of the Avengers when they come together again in Avengers: Infinity War. There are several intellectual characters within the group but none have shown Doctor Strange’s ability to step back and observe the situation as a whole in the heat of the moment. Doctor Strange’s analytical skills are off the charts.
Personally, I am very excited about the future films that will feature Doctor Strange (Avengers: Infinity War and possibly Thor: Ragnarok). I enjoyed this film a lot and would definitely recommend it. Looking forward to seeing how the MCU will expand its reach in both story and genre.
Enjoyment level: 8.5/10