Doctor Strange - Avengers: Infinity War Marvel MCU Movie Marathon
Now, we head into the realm of magic and Doctor Strange. And, as always, there will be spoilers.
First, I just realized that this is the first film to feature new Marvel Studios logo and theme song. LOL!
Before it came out, I was really looking forward to Doctor Strange because I felt this would be a game changer. And, to me, it did not disappoint. I love this film! Where most of what we have seen has been defined by science, Doctor Strange would open the world to magic and the multiverse. While Ant-Man did bring the idea of the Quantum Realm, Doctor Strange smashed open the door to give us a universe of astral planes, Dark Dimensions and Mirror Dimensions.
In the film, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), a former student of the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), seeks eternal life by serving Dormammu, a powerful being, and helping him engulf the universe in the Dark Dimension. Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a brilliant surgeon whose hands were destroyed in a car accident. He seeks anything that will help heal his hands and ends up in Kamar-Taj, a city inhabited by mystics. As he studies magic, he learns to access the power of the Eye of Agamotto, which allows the user to warp the space-time continuum. He uses this power to defeat Kaecilius.
I loved Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange. I know a lot of people made fun of his American accent, but it really didn't bother me. I thought his performance was far greater than any lapses in his accent. His descent into darkness after his car accident was palpable. I really felt for him. And he brought a lot of humor to the role as well without destroying the gravity of the situation.
And, I am a huge Rachel McAdams fan. I just find her to be so appealing. I just wish she had more to do than be Doctor Strange's love interest Christine Palmer. I appreciate that she was, at least, a brilliant doctor in her own right who Strange needed several times for her surgical abilities. But, the film really doesn't take place much in the real world, so I guess she couldn't be in it too much. She is his touchstone to the real world.
There were two different philosophies that developed during the course of the film. The Ancient One drew power off of the Dark Dimension to keep herself young. She did so because there were so many mystical threats that she was needed to defeat. So, for the good of the many, she defied the natural law. Doctor Strange does the same thing by manipulating the space-time continuum to defeat Kaecilius.
Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), another student of the Ancient One and a Master of the Mystic Arts, believes that by perverting the laws of nature, there will be consequences. He believes that, by drawing off the Dark Dimension, the Ancient One made it possible for Kaecilius to make his move. And now he worries what will happen now that Strange is manipulating time. While Mordo was not a villain in the movie, they set it up for him to eventually become Strange's arch-enemy as he is in the comic books. By giving him this philosophy, I think this will make him so much more interesting than his comic book counterpart who's motivation is out of jealousy. And, Chiwetel Ejiofor gives this character a gravitas and a seriousness that Mordo needs.
I liked the idea that the thing that blocked Strange from being a greater sorcerer was that he needed to learn, "Its not all about you." Jonathan Pangborn (Benjamin Bratt) used his magic to heal his legs and went home. Strange, up to a point, really was focused on healing his hands. And, he could be able to heal his hands and go home, but he realized that there were far too many threats out there. And, this is the same reason why the Ancient One drew from the Dark Dimension.
There was a big controversy about the casting of Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. I still don't know how I feel about it. As an Asian American, I am very sensitive to yellow face and that there are just not enough roles for Asians out there in Hollywood. But, this is a character that traditionally looks like a Fu Manchu stereotype. So, I could see what the filmmakers were trying to do to avoid the stereotype, even though I think it was a wrong move. They could have still cast Asian without making him stereotypical.
For example, the character of Wong (Benedict Wong) is Doctor Strange's "man servant" in the early days of the comic. For this film, they were able to make him a Master of Mystic Arts in his own right. Instead of being Strange's servant, he is his partner.
So, I think they could have easily casted that way for the Ancient One. But, that said, I really enjoyed Tilda Swinton's performance. I really did buy that she was an ancient sorcerer shrouded in mystery. And, while I certainly understand anybody's criticism of my compartmentalization of this issue, I am ambivalent about Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One.
I love the way they do magic in this film. The cast actually worked with hip hop dancers to learn tutting which is a dance style that uses geometry in movement. It made for the spell casting to look very convincing in live action. And, Strange's traveling through the different dimensions was like taking a ride through Steve Ditko's mind. Steve Ditko is a Marvel legend who co-created of Doctor Strange (as well as Spider-Man) and was known for drawing these really trippy looking dimensional worlds for the book. Just beautiful. And, whenever the sorcerers would battle within the Mirror Dimension where they could manipulate landscapes without affecting the real world, it was such a trip! It was like being in a colorful Escher painting.
I like that they gave Doctor Strange's Cloak of Levitation a personality of its own. He is like the Magic Carpet in Aladdin. The most iconic moment in the film is when Kaecilius pushes Strange over the railing. The Cloak of Levitation flies to him and Strange levitates up the staircase against the Sanctum Sanctorum's iconic window while casting a spell. Its one of those moments where you really feel like a comic book is coming to life.
A few interesting comic book character cameos in the film. Daniel Drumm (Mark Anthony Brighton), the protector of the New York Sanctum, is the brother of Brother Voodoo from the comics. Hamir (Topo Wresniwiro), the protector of the London Sanctum, was once controlled by Mordo to poison the Ancient One in the comics. Finally, Tina Minorou (Linda Louise Duan), the protector of the Hong Kong Sanctum, is mother of Nico Minorou from Marvel's The Runaways. Of the latter, it remains to be seen if this is the same Tina Minorou as the one in the Hulu television show. First, the actress in the show is different. Also, if she is a Master of the Mystic Arts in this film, the Tina Minorou in the television show.
And, of course, another much bigger cameo is Thor who seeks Strange's help to find his father. Strange agrees to help to get Loki off the planet. The scene is basically lifted from Thor: Ragnarok. It also features Strange wearing the leopard spotted gloves he wore in his classic comic outfit.
Finally, let's get to why Doctor Strange is important to Avengers: Infinity War. The Eye of Agamotto, which is the relic that Strange uses to manipulate the space-time continuum, is an Infinity Stone. And, while its never said, given its properties, it is the Time Stone. So, Doctor Strange will definitely be of interest to Thanos!
Stan Lee Cameo: Person reading a book on a bus, blithely unaware that sorcerers battle outside.
Again, I really enjoyed Doctor Strange. I think opening the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the world of magic is amazing. Its also the reason why I don't think Doctor Strange will die in Avengers: Infinity War. There must be a Sorcerer Supreme. Plus, who will keep Mordo in check.
Now, back to outer space with Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2!