PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
In Kathmandu, Nepal, the sorcerer Kaecilius and his zealots enter the secret compound Kamar-Taj and murder its librarian, keeper of ancient and mystical texts. They steal a ritual from a book belonging to the Ancient One, a sorcerer who has lived for an unknown time and taught all at Kamar-Taj, including Kaecilius, in the ways of the mystic arts. The Ancient One pursues the traitors, but Kaecilius escapes with the pages and some of his followers.
Stephen Strange, an acclaimed neurosurgeon, loses the use of his hands in a car accident. Fellow surgeon and former lover Christine Palmer tries to help him move on, but Strange, believing he can regain use of his hands, instead uses all his resources pursuing experimental surgeries in vain. After learning of Jonathon Pangborn, a paraplegic who mysteriously was able to walk again, Strange seeks him out, and is directed to Kamar-Taj. There, Strange is taken in by another sorcerer under the Ancient One, Mordo. The Ancient One shows Strange her power, revealing the astral plane and other dimensions such as the Mirror Dimension. Strange begs her to teach him, and she eventually agrees despite his arrogance, which reminds her of Kaecilius.
Strange begins his tutelage under the Ancient One and Mordo, and learns from the ancient books in the library, now presided over by the master Wong. Strange learns that Earth is protected from other dimensions by a spell formed from three buildings called Sanctums, found in New York City, London, and Hong Kong. The task of the sorcerers is to protect the Sanctums, though Pangborn chose to forgo this responsibility in favor of channeling mystical energy into walking again. Strange advances quickly over several months, even secretly reading from the text Kaecilius stole from and learning to bend time with the mystical Eye of Agamotto. Mordo and Wong warn Strange against breaking the laws of nature, comparing his arrogant yearning for power to that of Kaecilius, who believes, after the deaths of his loved ones, that everyone should have eternal life.
Kaecilius and his followers use the stolen pages to begin summoning the powerful Dormammu of the Dark Dimension, where time does not exist and all can live forever. This destroys the London Sanctum, and sends Strange from Kamar-Taj to the New York Sanctum. The zealots then attack there, where Strange holds them off with the mystical Cloak of Levitation until Mordo and the Ancient One arrive. Strange and Mordo become disillusioned with the Ancient One after Kaecilius reveals that her long life has come from her own use of Dormammu’s power. Kaecilius mortally wounds the Ancient One, and escapes to Hong Kong. The Ancient One tells Strange that he, too, will have to break the rules, to balance Mordo’s steadfast nature. She then dies, despite the best efforts of Strange and a bewildered Palmer. Strange and Mordo arrive in Hong Kong to find Wong dead and the Sanctum destroyed, with the Dark Dimension already engulfing Earth. Strange uses the Eye to turn back time and save Wong, before creating an infinite time loop inside the Dark Dimension that traps himself and Dormammu in the same moment forever. Strange agrees to break the loop if Dormammu leaves Earth, and the latter takes Kaecilius and the zealots with him.
Disgusted by Strange and the Ancient One’s disregard for the consequences of defying nature, Mordo departs. Strange returns the Eye, which Wong calls an Infinity Stone, to Kamar-Taj, and then takes up residence in the New York Sanctum to continue his studies. In a mid-credits scene, Strange agrees to help Thor, who has brought his brother Loki to Earth to search for their father Odin. In a post-credits scene, Mordo visits Pangborn and steals the energy he uses to walk, stating that Earth has “too many sorcerers”.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has reached the point now to where they can explore some of the lesser known, but still major characters. This is why we are getting films such as Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and this one, Doctor Strange. It is a risky move with this guy, especially with the use of mysticism, but if anyone cane make it work, it is Marvel. Let’s see how they did, shall we?
What is this about?
Marvel’s “Doctor Strange” follows the story of the talented neurosurgeon Doctor Stephen Strange who, after a tragic car accident, must put ego aside and learn the secrets of a hidden world of mysticism and alternate dimensions. Based in New York City’s Greenwich Village, Doctor Strange must act as an intermediary between the real world and what lies beyond, utilising a vast array of metaphysical abilities and artifacts to protect the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
What did I like?
Visuals. You’ve seen the trailers and advertisements for this film, I’m sure, so I don’t really need to tell you that this film is something that can best be described as Inception on acid. Doctor Strange, much like Thor was, is not an easy character to bring to life, especially when you start trying to portray his powers. Throw in others who have powers that may or may nor be on another level from his and your mind is blown! This is just something that has to be seen!
Strange things. When casting Dr. Strange, the first person I thought of was Robert Downey, Jr., but the problem with that choice is he’s already playing Iron Man (strangely enough there are man similarities between Tony Stark and Stephen Strange, starting with their choice of facial hair). Upon hearing Benedict Cumberbatch was cast, I was skeptical as to how he would pull it off. Not because he’s a bad actor, but because this seemed to be a bit beneath him. As it turns out, this is as perfect a role for him as Sherlock. Cumberbatch brings the cockiness needed, while also being he defeated student who is learning everything he can. I look forward to seeing much more from him in this role.
So, that’s the connection! For a Marvel film, there is about as much mention of the other Marvel properties as there are in the Netflix shows, which I actually appreciated. There is one mention of the Avengers that I remember and that was it. We don’t need to be beaten over the head with constant reminders. A few Easter eggs are nice here and there, but everything has its limit. By holding off on the MCU stuff, the scene at the beginning of the credits is much more effective as it ties him into the universe and sets up one of the next Marvel films (I won’t spoil which one).
What didn’t I like?
Is this love? It seems as if one can’t enjoy a superhero movie without the token love story, whether it fits or not. In this case, it does not. In the film’s defense, this isn’t truly a love story, as much as it is an attempt to put two people who have history and similar interests together just because. Rachel McAdams is a gorgeous woman, but I don’t think the audience would be missing much had her scenes been reduced.
Villain. If there is one weakness in these Marvel films, it seems to be the villains. Other than Loki, none of them have been memorable, let alone a threat. I know what you’re going to say….Zemo was a threat in Captain America: Civil War and Thanos is lurking out there. With Zemo, sure he was effective, but who remembers anything about the guy? Thanos’ time is coming soon…VERY soon. You can add Dormmamu and his minion Kaecilius to the list of ineffective villains. We are never really made clear of their intentions, other than Dormmamu wants to escape the Dark Dimensiom and send the Earth back there, but why?!? I need some motivation for why you are trying to destroy existence!
Whitewashing. Much has been said about the casting of Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. For me, not being Asian, it isn’t a big deal, but I can imagine how difficult it is to accept the change. I’m not going to go into some long diatribe about this, but I do feel as if the audience deserved at least a snippet of the Ancient One as an old Asian guy. The film makes a point about how his form is fluid, so who’s to say he needs to look like a creepy, bald white woman?
Final verdict on Doctor Strange? A solid introduction to a lesser-known character. The film really shines when it comes to the visuals. Cumberbatch, sporting an American accent that he doesn’t quite seem comfortable with, seems to be having fun with the character which really sells it to the audience. There are a few minor issues here and there, but they aren’t anything that cannot be overcome. Do I recommend this? Yes, very highly! Go check it out!
4 1/2 out of 5 stars