I’ve been a fan of Doctor Strange ever since I read my first issue of The Defenders in 1972. I remember watching the first Doctor Strange movie in 1978 with Peter Hooten as the sorcerer supreme. That one was disappointing but the new one delivers the goods. Here are some of the takeaways from watching the new Doctor Strange film.
1. The climax of this film is very different from other comic book movies we’ve seen because the hero saves the day by outwitting his enemy instead of outfighting him. Strange knows he has no chance in battle against Dormammu but he nevertheless wins through a clever, self-sacrificing strategy. It makes a nice change to have a super hero outthink the bad guy because he knows fighting will do no good. The last time we got a comic book movie where the good guy won with cunning was Superman 2, when the man of steel tricked Zod, Ursa and Non into the Kryptonian Molecule Chamber and took away their powers.
2. Benedict Cumberbatch is an amazing actor and he carries this movie. He even looks like he stepped right out of the comic. One thing that was a little surprising was that Stephen Strange didn’t seem as nasty and arrogant as his comic counter-part was in the beginning. We see him interacting in an amiable way with some of his co-workers. Yes, he had an ego and snapped at a fellow surgeon, but that was only after the surgeon called a patient’s time of death prematurely. Strange should have been more acerbic, like his Sherlock character. True, he did yell at his love-interest Christine (Rachel McAdams) but he was going through a stressful time when he did. Overall, he was only mildly arrogant. Strange should have been more like Dr. House from House MD—a total narcissistic jerk.
3. Using the Eye of Agamotto, Dr. Strange has the ability to stop or reverse time. While this is an awesome power, it does bring up the same questions that occurred in Superman: The Movie—if he can reverse time once, why won’t he do that every time some tragedy strikes? Many ask that same question about Doctor Who, also.
4. Speaking of Doctor Who, the finale of the film, wherein Strange dies over-and-over again in his time-loop is very reminiscent of the Doctor Who episode “Heaven Sent”, where the Doctor has to die over-and-over to get himself out of his predicament.
5. Marvel continues to have forgettable villains. While Mads Mikkelsen does his best in the role, the character of Kaecilius is rather generic. He has that same “I’m going to make the world a better place” goal that Loki, Ultron, Magento and others have had. He never gets the chance to display any discernible personality. Even Dormammu is limited to a brief appearance, outwitted very quickly. If there’s a sequel, let’s hope Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) comes across better.
6. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Jasper Sitwell mentioned that Hydra has been watching Stephen Strange for a while. Why was that? He wasn’t a sorcerer yet, unless the timeline of Doctor Strange is confusingly out of order? Or was there something in that Hydra prediction program which told them a surgeon would become a sorcerer?
7. Rachel McAdams is a treat in this movie because she is so realistically written. She is similar in many ways to Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) in the Netflix MCU shows. Both of them are likable and interesting because they are smart, brave, capable medical experts, who are also attractive, kind and empathic. Yet thankfully, in both cases, the story avoids turning them into the clichéd super-women we see in so many shows and films these days. Rachel (like Claire) is not like the usual insufferably smug know-it-all warrior woman who inundates pop culture in recent years. She seemed like a real person.
8. The training scenes in this film are everything the training scenes in The Green Lantern (2011) should have been. Actually, this film had a few similarities with Green Lantern. Both films have an ally (Mordo/Sinestro) who turns to the dark side in the post-credit sequence and both have a finale where the main villain is a giant, floating SFX head.