Who is Doctor Strange?
When there was first talk about this movie, there appeared to be three main reactions. The first was true, genuine excitement for a complex, lesser known superhero. The second was sheer confusion as to who this character even was. And the third? An interesting mixture of both. The film does an excellent job at peeking into the life of the surgeon before the Doctor, helping us see the character for who he was – selfish, conceited, and incredibly intelligent. (Except for the part where he decides to *SPOILER* speed on a curving highway…in the rain…while looking at x-rays. Smart.) Now, for those of you who have only seen the film’s version of an origin story, let’s take a quick step back and peek into the comic universe, and lay down the good doctor’s origin story.
Dr. Stephen Strange first appeared in the anthology Strange Tales #110, in 1963 – the dawning of the silver age for comics, and a nice treat for America’s heavily laden psychedelic era. After losing his title as a gifted surgeon due to a horrible car accident, he continues on in search of a cure for his shaking, useless hands. As is in the film, this is how he finds the Ancient One. (Though in the comics he is an asian man and not the ever androgynous Tilda Swinton). The Ancient One helps guide him along his journey through the magical arts, expanding his knowledge of a world outside his own. After acquiring the Cloak of Levitation and the Eye of Agamotto (which introduces yet another infinity stone!), Dr. Strange truly becomes a force to be reckoned with.If you fast forward through the rest of the film and delve into his later life, Dr. Strange continues on to be quite an impact in the Marvel Universe, and dabbles in several crossovers. He has been a part of teams such as the New Avengers, Illuminati, Defenders, The Order, and Midnight Sons. Some of which I am sure we are to see played out for the next few hundred years in the MCU. Now, let’s get to the good stuff.
What can he do?
Doctor Strange is not really gifted. He is no Deadpool, no Wolverine, no Spiderman. He did not acquire these powers through body manipulation and experimentation or by a freak spider accident. In actuality, one of the true beauties of his character is that he truly is an incredibly intelligent man who excelled in magic. Yes, there are hints (especially in the film) that he has been “gifted” or “chosen,” because he advances rather rapidly – but lest we not forget all the practice and studying he had to accomplish to get there. If we set magic aside for a moment, he is very skilled in a various amount of martial arts which paired with those magical abilities, really makes for some amazing encounters. Another magical aid is his list of mystical artifacts and their helpful abilities.
In the film we come across the Eye of Agamotto and the Cloak of Levitation. Let’s begin with the first. The Eye of Agamotto, created in part by a former Sorcerer Supreme, is designed to dispel disguises as well as to travel and manipulate vast oceans of time and space in an attempt to create illusions. In addition to all of this, it is our introduction to the next infinity stone – the time stone. (So you can best bet we will see a lot of Dr. Strange and his rock in years to come). Now onto the Cloak of Levitation! As you can tell by the name, the cloak flies. (And in the film, it has quite the character as well – much like Aladdin’s flying carpet). While in the film the cloak chooses our protagonist, in the comics it is gifted to him by the Ancient One, and after his battle with Dormammu. Though we have not seen the cloak’s abilities at full extent in the film, they do range from levitation to mystical protection to shape-shifting abilities. It also has the ability to grasp, wrap or hold with what appears to almost be its own consciousness (something I’m sure we will explore later in the films).
With his vast knowledge, physical skills and acquired abilities, his fear of failure both aids his resistance to participate and eventually this and desperation work to propel him forward, to fight, and to become the true hero of this film. That being said, let’s get to the actual film!
How Does the Film Compare?
Compared to the vast collection of Marvel films, Doctor Strange does stand out as something a bit more evolved in terms of visual storytelling. Yes, like many first films in a franchise, you must suffer through yet another origin story (much like the more excruciating moments of Deadpool, in which you are on the edge of your seat waiting for the sex to finish and the action to start up again (or was that just me?). Though, unlike a few others, you are met with an Inception-like transportation into a new, stunning aspect of the Marvel Universe and a glimpse into the various dimensions that world holds. This is something viewers have gotten glimpses of in films like Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, but in this one you are not only transported into these dimensions, but are taken on a journey as its very fabric is stretched, kneaded and altered in imaginative ways. This manipulation of time and space plays out heavily in this film, and is a part of what truly makes it stand out among the rest. It takes a character like this to pull the audience aside from their slightly disappointing, mild action Marvel films (sorry, Avengers 2), and let them know that the grass is truly greener…later, and not on the other side with DC (keep trying, I’m sure you’ll get there one day!)
Now, is it worth the ticket?
Yes. I have seen this film twice already, with plans on seeing it a third, hopefully while intoxicated and therefore much more frightening and mind blowing! Though, if you are still on the fence about it, here’s some thoughts:
If you have ever seen Ant-Man, and thought “the best part of this movie is the trippy part – just wish it lasted longer…” Then you should watch this movie! If you saw Inception and thought “You know, this film needs not just alternate realities, but dimensions, monsters and magic!” Then you should watch this movie. If you have seen the Sherlock Holmes series on BBC, 2013’s Star Trek: Into Darkness, or for some bizarre reason Zoolander no. 2 and thought, “Man, I feel like a Cumberbitch now!” Well, then, by all means watch this film too. It is visually stunning, mind expanding, and seemingly an important addition the infinity stone arc.