In 1963 Strange Tales #110 introduced a character in Marvel Comics called Doctor Strange. Created and drawn by Steve Ditko the cover of Strange Tales #110 proclaimed him as Dr. Strange Master of Black Magic. I was not impressed with him because of my love for the action superheros like the Fantastic Four, Superman, Avengers, and others. But after reading later issues and the origin in Strange Tales #115, I realized that Magic was an intriguing part of the Marvel Universe. There were mystical threats and magical characters that needed Doctor Strange as the Sorcerer Supreme. Marvel started to team Dr. Stange with other superheroes and his involvement greatly enhanced the stories.
So now Marvel Studios has introduced Doctor Strange to their Cinematic Universe this week in similar fashion and I think that it will be a success both critically and monetarily. The acting was great. Performances by Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange and Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One were outstanding. Strange is a neurosurgeon who, after a horrific car accident that led to a journey of healing, he discovers the hidden world of magic and alternate dimensions introduced by the Ancient One, a Celtic mystic, who becomes Strange’s mentor.
Rachel McAdams plays Christine Palmer a fellow surgeon in the hospital that Strange uses for surgeries. Palmer was initially written as a love interest for Strange, but shortly before filming Director Scott Derrickson suggested that this story line be changed by making the two characters lovers as part of their backstory, and coming “out the other side of it as friends”. She becomes a tie to Strange’s old life and stabilized his human side in the process of becoming a sorcerer.
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Karl Mordo, is a more advanced student of the Ancient One who helps teach Strange. Mordo unlike in the comics is not introduced as villainous in the movie and becomes a friend of sorts to Strange. The movie ends with Mordo dis-enchanted with the Ancient One because she used power from evil realms and sources to stabilize the universe as it is. When “things get complicated” in the film and Mordo takes exception to what Strange does with Time and he leaves the gathering of sorcerers established by the Ancient One. Director Derrickson elaborated that the “antagonism between Mordo and Strange” is in place to explore in future films.
Benedict Wong plays Wong one of the Masters of Mystic Arts, tasked with protecting some of Kamar-Taj’s most valuable relics and books. The film stayed away from the comic version of the character which is depicted as Strange’s Asian, “tea-making manservant”. He helps Strange in many ways and helps fill in the his misunderstandings in his teaching of the mystic arts. He also mentions at the end that the Eye of Agamotto contains an Infinity Stone, the Time Stone and one of the six stones that Thanos must have to work the All-Powerful Infinity Gauntlet.
Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius is one of the Masters of Mystic Arts who breaks off from the Ancient One. Kaecilius believes the Ancient One is a hypocrite, protecting her own power base and he wants to change reality in this universe seeking immortality in the realm of the villainous entity Dormammu by bringing him to earth.
Screenplay and story was completed by Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill. The script strains under the weight of the origin story which takes the first hour to tell but switches to the attack on the sanctums of mystic power throughout the earth with Strange doing surprisingly well for a new sorcerer. Strange learns quick to stay alive with the help of the Cloak of Levitation and the Eye of Agamotto. The final action with Dormammu in his universe was spell bounding, please excuse the pun. The movie was a visual pleasure to watch.
The directing and choice of shots told the story well and the dialog was good with occasional humor. The scene when the Ancient One leaves her body and looks at a storm in a moment of time at her death was masterful. Her last words to Strange told him that he must learn that life itself is “not all about him”. It said it all and summed up what she was trying to teach him from the beginning. Strange’s life changed at that moment as he grasp the purpose of his existence.
Marvel has done it again as far as I can see and introduced at the proper time a character and story that will fit into the tapestry of what is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Hope you enjoyed the movie and if you have not seen it buy your tickets soon for Doctor Strange. Stay tuned comic faithful for more. 🙂 Walt