Doctor Strange - A Review
I've waited a couple weeks to post my review for Marvel's new film Doctor Strange, hopefully to not spoil too many people. I believe anyone who cares about seeing the movie has largely seen it by this point.
Prelude: This may be a bit less of a review, and a bit more of the inner workings of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and the implications of Doctor Strange.
Overall, I enjoyed Doctor Strange, it was by far not my favorite film in the MCU, but that may be in part due to the fact that I knew next to nothing about the character going in. One of the film's, and Strange's, magical items is also one of the six great macguffins of the MCU, i.e. the infinity stones. The Eye of Agamotto is an amulet that Strange has used throughout the comics and it makes its debut in this film, and is revealed to be none other than one of the six Infinity Stones... The Time Stone.
For those of you reading this, and not knowing what exactly a damn Infinity Stone is. It's one of six that have been, poorly, scattered throughout The (multi?)Universe. Space, Time, Power, Mind, Soul, and Reality. Marvel has been on a decade long campaign to tease out the Infinity Gauntlet story arc. Where Thanos gathers all of the stones, throws them in a glove and utterly wrecks shit, until he's tricked at the end and he goes to space and works on a space farm on Jupiter or somewhere.
Anyway, back to Doctor Strange. I enjoyed the film, overall but what I enjoyed more was the implications this film has on the wider MCU. Such as the Multiverse and Dimensions, more specifically the Dark Dimension, where the villain Dormammu hangs out. This iteration of Dormammu is essentially the Galactus of the MCU, and hell, I'll take it. Anything is better than a pissed off intergalactic storm cloud. Dormammu's primary goal is to simply envelop anything he can into The Dark Dimension; at one point I believe he was even referenced as the destroyer of worlds.
Anyone that knows me knows that I love time travel as a story telling trope. It adds infinite possibilities to your story. Sure it can be contrived but I love what it can add to a story. This goes no different in the MCU. I am ecstatic that they have introduced the concept of time travel into the MCU via the Eye of Agamotto. The film's final act hinges upon this ability in one of the greatest villain take-downs in the a Marvel film canon.
As far as what I didn't like about the film... I felt there were a few missed opportunities to make references to the larger Marvel Universe that were missed. One of the major plot elements going on in Marvel's Agents of Shield currently is The Darkhold, a mystical book tied to the dark dimension. Not unlike the book in Doctor Strange. Although they are not the same mystical texts, it would have been nice to had had some reference to a missing book within the film. But hey, this isn't the first time we've heard of Marvel Film and Marvel TV not getting along so well.
For a film whose primary trope is time, it's odd that this film seems to struggle with the passing of time in a narrative sense. I struggled to understand how much time had passed during Strange's training. The only real clue the audience gets in regards to this is when he shows back up at the hospital and Christine tells him that she hasn't seen him in months. But still... this could be 8 months, it could be 2 months. Who knows? I would not say this film is dissimilar to the first Ironman film. The plot development, the arc, and narrative themes are all the same. Both showing how hubris can put someone's shit in check and give birth to their true potential. Where Ironman gives us a cave, Doctor Strange gives us a debilitating car accident. Where Doctor Strange shows us he hiked to the ends of the Earth to find mystical answers to helping his hands recover, and training to do so. Ironman gives us Tony Stark slaving away in a cave, or in his shop... and it seems like it takes him a minute or two. One of my biggest gripes about Doctor Strange was simply this. It seemed as if he hiked around the world and mastered the mystical arts in an unclear and ridiculously short amount of time. One could argue that Strange, having his photographic memory, and being able to study in the astral form, which seems to process time faster, could explain that. But still, at the end of the day it is hard to grasp how much time passed during Strange's training.
What excited me the most about the character of Doctor Strange coming to the big screen is seeing more magic in the MCU. Sure the astral projections and the mirror dimension are cool. But I would have loved to have seen a more advanced version of Scarlett Witch's powers. Who, at least in the comics, also uses magic. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what her live action character's abilities derive from. It is some form of tele-pathy/kinesis brought on via the Mind Stone I suppose. Outside of the relics it seems as if Doctor Strange and the other wizards in the film are limited to simply using magic to conjure weapons, which is really no different than Agent Coulson's hologram shield. I would have loved to have seen something more done with the magic here. I'm not entirely sure what, I just feel something was missing. I suppose I was excited about the prospect of seeing a a superhero fight that was a bit less "punchy."
It's no secret that Marvel has a difficult time crafting great villains on the big screen and Strange's villain is no different. Kaecilius essentially serves as a pawn to the big-bad here, Dormammu. More similar to a Loki-Thanos relationship than anything. This film seemed more to serve as a launch pad for Doctor Strange as a character moving forward. There were a few seeds planted to lead into the future MCU, one such being Mordo. Who I could see growing into the main antagonist to Strange. However, in a will-they-won't-they relationship similar to Loki and Thor or Xavier and Magneto. Which I wouldn't mind. Marvel has always seemed to struggle with the aspect of bringing a good villain to the big screen. Let's face it, Marvel has extreme difficulty in establishing the exposition needed for both a protagonist and antagonist, within 120 minutes run time of a feature film. This has come to be expected, and as a solid fan of the Marvel Universe, I'm slightly okay with it.
Doctor Strange is a solid film, and a solid addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The implications of this film will be far reaching into the crazier side of the Marvel Universe; not only with magic, but the concept of time travel, alternate dimensions, and the multiverse. All of which can open up future films for insane possibilities.