The movie is just out, and the buzz is fantastic. And know up front that this piece contains quite a few spoilers! Doctor Strange made $325 million plus over its first weekend. In what had previously been a rather boring Fall premier season, it packs punch, delivers killer 3D special effects, has a stellar cast and is just plain out entertaining. And you don’t have to be a Doctor Strange expert to get what’s going on. There’s enough exposition to bring even Doctor Strange novices up to speed. See, Strange begins as an arrogant, materialistic brain surgeon whose career is brought to a screeching halt by a car accident that leaves him with mangled hands. Eventually, he ends up in Nepal seeking help from a mystical sorcerer called the Ancient One and her side kicks Wong and Mordo. And then we enter a different Marvel Universe, a magical one and a multi-dimensional one. We’ve had Marvel street action. We’ve had Marvel cosmic battles. And now we have Marvel mystical, multi-verse. And trust us, it gets into quite a psychedelic, mind-blowing place. Plus the cast is AAA and Oscar-worthy. Benedict Cumberbatch is amazing as the “lovable a**hole” Doctor Strange. Tilda Swinton was a surprise choice for the head sorcerer Ancient One, but nails her part. Rachel McAdams (as Christine Palmer) is the love interest, a doctor and normal human being, of sorts. Purists may regret the comic’s total super-villain Mordo being morphed into a mentor to Strange in the movie, but everyone agrees Chiwetel Ejiofor brings more than a little menace to the part. And how did the Wong character, who was a man servant to Strange in the comics, become a mentor/teacher played by (who else) Benedict Wong? Read on. And last, but certainly not least, Danish actor Mads Mikkelson is anti-hero, Strange-chasing Kaecilius.
Spoiler alert! There will be spoilers. Here are 15 reasons you just have to see Doctor Strange.
15. It’s Totally Trippy
Steve Englehart who wrote for Marvel back in the early days of Doctor Strange, admits that for some of the time, he did it while tripping on LSD. And comic book artwork produced by artist by Steve Ditko back then has a definite psychedelic tripped-out feel. It’s like Doctor Strange predicted the acid dropping counter culture of the 1960s and 1970s. Or maybe had a hand in causing it. With the movie, they have taken Englehart’s drug induced storylines and Ditko’s illustrations and brought them to life. As in totally 3D life. So, the film feels more like a surreal comic book experience than any superhero film ever. We get dizzying, psychedelic city bending shots that channel Inception. Like, peace and love man. Trippy is definitely the way to go.
14. It’s Harry Potter Meets Marvel
Not quite. J.K. Rowling is 51-years old and good ole’ Doctor Strange is 53-years old. So he got there first. The magical element may be new to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but magic has been part of the world of Strange from the beginning. In that world, we have mystical teachers, amulets that do amazing things, shape bending, mind numbing magical tricks — and more. Sorry, hardly a wand in sight. So instead of having mutant superheroes, we have magical ones. And here’s another thing to get your head around, Strange is the Ancient One’s “chosen one”. Did Rowling grow up reading Doctor Strange comics? It’s all amazingly the same, we think. But, as we’ve already said, Marvel got there first.
13. It’s An Amazing Stand-Alone Story With Magical Toys In Abundance
Fans know that Marvel superheroes and villains show up all over the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But with this movie, we get (more or less) a stand alone film with a stand alone story. That is, until the end. But later for that point. We get the Doctor Strange icons like the Levitation Cloak (with something of its own personality) and the portal creating Sling Ring. And then there’s the classic Strange accessory, the Book of Vishanti with its collection of white magic spells. And there’s even a version of that Strange classic, the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak, even if those foe-stopping bands are less crimson and more sparky in the film. And what about the Eye of Agamotto that Strange wears as a necklace? Yep. It’s there too, but according to the director Scott Derrickson, the comic book version was too powerful to make it into a live movie and so they have morphed it into a time manipulation stone. As in Infinity.
12. Some Really Crazy Sh*t: Welcome To The Marvel Multi-Verse
This is the 14th Marvel movie and we are just getting into the multi-verse? Not only do we have magic, spells and mystical beings, we have a multi-verse? Right. What the f**k is Marvel thinking, you might well ask. Suddenly we have other dimensions, other realities, even other universes. Pretty heavy stuff for a superhero movie. And this multi-verse thing is central to the told-in-3D story. Special effects bring the multi-verse to life. But just think about it. It’s another battle dimension, a chance to make the battle we all know is coming as monumental as it can be, fought not only just on earth and out in the cosmos, but also across different universes and realities. It’s, literally, mind blowing and exciting.
11. It’s Funny Some Of The Time
There are pop culture references. Like when Doctor Strange is trying to break the ice with teacher/mentor Wong, he quips he’s just “Wong”, like “Adele” is just Adele and “Beyonce” is just Beyonce. When fellow doctor Christine Palmer turns down a date with Doctor Strange, she says she has a rule against dating colleagues that’s called “The Strange Rule”. Later, when Kaecilius asks his name, Strange replies, “it’s Strange really”. And not missing a beat Kaecilius quips, “who am I to judge you?”. And there are in-jokes. When Strange finally gets the Ancient One to take him on, Mordo takes him to his room and hands him a bit of paper with “shamballa” written on it, a reference to the Doctor Strange story Into Shamballa. Strange looks confused and asks if it is his mantra, his chant. No, Mordo says, it is the WiFi password.
10. It’s A Total Origin Story
With Doctor Strange we have the ultimate origin of a superhero tale. We learn a bit about his backstory, the death of his family, and the greed and arrogance that drives the man when we first encounter him. Then the accident and he becomes that most redundant of men, a surgeon with mangled hands that tremble. Some have pointed out the similarities to Batman Begins. In both, we start with an unhappy wealthy man with a liking for fast cars and modern architecture who travels to the mystical East to get his life together and, incidentally, learns how to be a superhero. In other words, they are both movies that take us back to the very beginning of a sometimes dark superhero. It remains to be seen if, like Batman, Dr. Strange will channel a dark vibe in future installments. There’s even a Mordo origin storyline, as in the comics the character was totally evil from day one. Yet, in the movie, we have Mordo starting as a Strange ally, with a menacing hint of what will come.
9. WTF? Mordo Is A (Sort Of) Good Guy And Wong A Teacher
Wait. In the comics Mordo is a totally evil villain who wants to take Strange down. And in the movie he is his teacher and ally? Well for much of the movie that is the case. In Nepal, he helps to train the novice Strange and continues as a kind of sidekick. But, you see, the writers have a plan: If Mordo starts as a kind of good guy, it makes it more powerful when he turns. And, in the final scene of the movie, we get a sense of where he’s headed. Seems Mordo is angry with Doctor Strange because the (not so) good doc dares to use dark magic in a good cause. Another switch up: In the comics Wong is a man servant to Strange, complete with traditional Chinese robes. In the movie he is the wise and solemn keeper of the magical library and a kind of drill sergeant mentor/teacher to Strange. Plus, Mordo and Wong do a pretty good job of explaining the Doctor Strange universe to newbie Strange (not to mention the audience).
8. It’s The Most Innovative Marvel Movie Ever
Well, we will start with the 3D format and the special effects that create a world that only could exist in animation before. Then, there’s the reshaping of the Mordo and Wong characters, transforming the villain and the servant into Strange mentors and sidekicks. And the humor, for the most part, is modern and full of cultural references and in jokes. Sure, we get the unhappy rich man vibe that runs through Batman’s story, but that’s just the comic book storyline. Plus, the male character of the Ancient One has been transformed into a totally not ancient female. And, having told us the back story and origins of Doctor Strange, we then get a tantalizing hints of how the character is going to be integrated into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. Read on.
7. More Crazy Sh*t: The Chase And The Sanctum Battle Scenes
In the Marvel Universe, the world is protected from the Dark Dimension by charms on the Sanctums, three buildings in New York, London and Hong Kong. So, it’s no surprise that the bad guys want to take control of those key places. And do. In one scene, Strange is battling to stop Kaecilius taking the New York Sanctum. Sparks are flying, men are running along walls, and Kaecilius seems to get the better of Strange. It’s tense, as novice Strange appears to struggle. The only scene that’s better is the film’s chase scene where Strange and Mordo are pursued by Kaecilius and his gang in a city bending, shape shifting, climbing up and down buildings scene that is riveting, dizzying and scary all at once.
6. Kaecilius Means Well?
The character of Kaecilius is something of a minor villain in the Marvel Comic Book Universe. But this movie makes everybody’s favorite (and only) TV Hannibal Lecter, Mads Mikkelson, into a man on a mission and a force to be reckoned with. And he’s not just some nasty villain chasing Doctor Strange. Remember, in the Doctor Strange Universe, we have the multi-verse, a multi-dimensional series of worlds. What Strange and the Ancient One are all about is keeping those separate worlds well and truly separate. And Kaecilius? He just wants to break down the barriers between the dimensions. See, he’s not necessarily wrong, but he is willing to fight and fight hard to get his way. Is he a bad guy or a good guy? And is he linked with the demonic Dormammu? You’ll have to figure that out on your own.
5. Strange’s Strange Women
Rachel McAdams plays Christine Palmer. She is that superhero staple character, a girl next door type who is as normal and nice as the likes of the Ancient One, Wong and Mordo definitely are not. And she is a very good doctor and a former love interest of Strange’s, who tries to get the embittered, post-accident doctor to get on with his life. He ends up doing just that in ways that totally amaze and astounds our girl next door. You’re doing what? She seems to be saying as she is drawn into Strange’s increasingly, well, very strange world. Her polar opposite is the Ancient One, played to perfection by a pretty much bald Tilda Swinton. She zaps Strange’s astral body out of his physical one and sends him into a psychedelic, non-reality where nothing is as it appears. Time can be altered. Universes can shift and collide with other worlds. And they so totally fight Dormammu and the Dark Dimension for control of the world.
4. The Ending – Major Spoiler Alert
Let’s cut to the chase here. Dormammu seems to be winning the battle to take control of earth, aided and abetted by Kaecilius. The Sanctums have been destroyed, the Ancient One and Wong are dead and Dormammu is moving in for the kill. But wait. There’s good old Doctor Strange and his Eye of Agamotto. First, he shifts time and brings Wong back to life and then he traps himself in the Dark Dimension with Dormammu, programming time so that the two are stuck in the same moment forever. OK, it’s a bit weak, but Dormammu gets so frustrated that he promises Strange that if he will break the loop, he will leave Earth with Kaecilius and his army and never return. How dumb is it? But Strange agrees. And off the bad guys go. Mordo, totally p*ssed off by Strange’s use of his powers, goes off in a huff, proclaiming the Earth has too many sorcerers. There’s trouble ahead. Cue the credits.
3. The Thing With Thor
See, the scenes inserted into the credit sequences are a Marvel tradition. And guess who turns up at the end of Doctor Strange? It’s Chris Hemsworth as Thor. Fans will probably remember Odin (Anthony Hopkins) disappearing at the end of Thor: The Dark World. Is he dead? Is he Odin Sleeping? Well that’s what Thor wants to find out. So here is Strange, the man in charge of safeguarding the Earth from those nasty dimensional threats, chatting with a God who wants to find his father. And what does Strange say? “Allow me to help you,” he says, leaving some to believe that he’ll be making an appearance in the next Thor movie, Thor: Ragnarok. You’ll have to wait around a year to see, as the movie is not out until November of 2017.
2. The Film D-Box Has Longed For
Think 3D/IMAX Doctor Strange is the way to go? Why not go for it and go to a screening at a D-Box theater, the motion system that (literally) moves you. Fans who have done just that rave, totally rave about the combination of 3D, psychedelic tripped-out special effects and how it interacts with the D-Box system. Before the total 3D experience this movie is, the use of 3D in the Marvel Cinematic Universe had been a kind of add on, a gimmick that didn’t really add much to the film. Think about it, if you have a multi-verse, 3D is the way into that world. You have worlds colliding and splitting off from one another. It’s dizzying, especially in the New York, city bending, city shifting chase scene. Then add in D-Box motion systems. Shut up. Just remember to woof down that burger after the “moving” experience that Dr. Strange D-Box is.
1. The One About Trivia And The Lovable A**hole Doctor Strange
OK. Some Doctor Strange trivia: His middle name is “Vincent”, an homage to Vincent Price, the B-movie actor at the center of many 1950s and 1960s horror films. For a time, the comic book character bore a firm resemblance to that now deceased actor. So, Strange was never going to be anything other than dark and more than a little menacing. He’s a good guy with distinctive graying at the temples who does bad things for good causes. Some say Benedict Cumberbatch was everybody’s first choice for the role. Then when scheduling conflicts ruled that out, Joaquin Phoenix was in talks with director Derrickson and Marvel. Reportedly, he nixed the idea and schedules were changed to accommodate Sherlock, no Benedict, and the rest is history. Oh, and Johnny Depp was also considered for the title role. Now, that’s kind of creepy, we think.
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