The man at the center, Stephen Strange, still has a lot in common with heroes, including the Avengers. Ever since his name was dropped in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, fans have anticipated seeing him in the MCU.
Doctor Strange made his incredible debut over the weekend. The film’s story centers on him becoming a mystical master, as he battles a rogue sorcerer who wants to sacrifice Earth to a dark entity that’s a little scarier than Thanos.
When you meet Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), he’s Tony Stark with a medical license. He’s a brilliant surgeon, but also arrogant. A car accident that destroys his hands changes his life. He is desperate to repair his hands, and heads all the way to Nepal after hearing about a man who was crippled until he used his mind to heal himself.
When he heads to a hidden temple in Nepal with Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) as his escort, Strange enters a whole new world and destiny. He is greeted by the Ancient One (Tilda Swindon), who lets him know that he can save more lives now than he ever did as a doctor. He not only experiences astral projection but also a trip more psychedelic than anything else. Those scenes, and several reality-bending scenes that are Christopher Nolan and M.C. Escher on Human Growth Hormones, are the reasons why this should be seen in 3-D.
It takes a while before he’s allowed to learn these new powers, and to convince him he’s got to surrender to the new realities he’s about to experience. They’re worried he might be just like Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), a sorcerer who has broken with the Ancient One because of a secret he’s discovered, and wants to offer Earth to the Dark Dimension
Cumberbatch plays Strange as a combination of Sherlock, Stark and maybe Dr. Kildare. He’s got plenty of confidence that he can become a sorcerer, but has problems accepting that he can’t be the doctor he used to be. Once he sees a sorcerer who can cast spells without a hand, he starts to change his mind. Mordo and Wong (Benedict Wong) even suspect Strange may be meant for all this, especially when the Cloak of Levitation accepts him. He even masters the Eye of Agamotto, and is able to manipulate time. That worries Mordo, because it could lead to unexpected consequences. The eye also contains something that someone wants.
Soon, Strange, Wong and Mordo battle Kaecilius in amazing battles that will make anyone dizzy, leading to a showdown in Hong Kong and a momentous decision that not everyone will accept.
Aside from the incredible fight scenes, there’s still a healthy amount of humor, especially with how Strange develops his powers. Seeing him asleep while his astral side studies would be a skill any college student would love to learn.
As with other Marvel movies, there is a love interest, but Rachel McAdams’ role isn’t that significant compared to other movies. Still, her presence as one-time girlfriend Dr. Christine Palmer gives him help to accept his new identity. Also, the bad guys don’t capture her but she’s still dodging an astral fight while she tries to save his body from a stab wound. It’s still easier than figuring out what Strange has become. Hopefully we may see her again in the MCU, maybe as Night Nurse.
Swindon is also pretty good as the Ancient One. While she has eons of knowledge, she knows how to handle Strange, then admits to her secret of why she has lasted so long. It’s included bending the rules for the greater good, and it’s something Strange will have to face, too. Mikkelsen, meanwhile, acts a little like Hannibal Lecter as the rogue sorcerer but he’s mostly a blind disciple who thinks there’s a way to escape death and decay. However, his new master, Dormammu, sees Earth as the prize he’s always wanted.
Doctor Strange is a solid start for a new character of the MCU, and it should be seen in 3-D to get the full effect.
As for the post-credits scenes, one of them shows two men sharing a drink, while the other has one man concerned about a surplus.
By the way, Marvel Studios has a new opening logo featuring all of the heroes we’ve seen so far. Expect Strange to be added by next year.