The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) expands once again with the addition of Dr. Stephen Strange.
Dr. Strange brings us to a world of magic within the MCU that has been hinted at but never actually seen. Although we’ve heard his name before (Captain America: Winter Soldier), Stephen Strange had never been featured onscreen and now, finally, he makes his debut. In the comics, he is known as the Sorceror Supreme and carries a heavy burden of keeping our world and reality safe from the threats that others like the Avengers cannot see. However, Dr. Strange wasn’t always a believer of the spiritual and the mystical and that’s where this film begins.
Dr. Strange is an origin story that carries a similar feel to it as the film that started it all, Iron Man. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a man at the top of his profession who only thinks of himself. What a personal tragedy changes the way he sees the world, he begins a journey to find the true purpose of life.
Dr. Strange features amazing Inception-like visuals that takes us into uncharted territory for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A number of different supernatural elements have been introduced throughout the Marvel films in recent years. In Thor, we first heard of the 9 realms. The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy introduced the idea of aliens and space. The series has also introduced us to the idea of the all-powerful Infinity Stones, eventually leading us to 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War (and Thanos, biggest of the bass). In Dr. Strange, we get to explore the ‘multiverse’, or the manner in which different dimensions intertwine with (and even on top of) each other. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Marvel film with out the adventure, a bad guy trying to destroy the world and a sense of humor that seems to hit at just the right moments.
With all that said, I believe that Dr. Strange is a good film–but not a great film. Visually, it’s stunning (except I felt that the climax was a let down). Story-wise, I felt it was average given that we’ve seen this before (and, frankly, done much better). I feel like they rushed his mystical progress and I would’ve preferred to see Strange “earn” it just a little more. (In fact, several years back, there was an animated film that, despite it’s faults, actually told the story of his journey to master the mystic arts more effectively than this film.) Personally, I feel that, by going big on the visuals, they took a little bit off on the storytelling, making the overall film just good and not great–and it could have been great. Benedict Cumberbatch did an amazing job as Dr. Stephen Strange. At any given moment, he was both charismatic and funny, compelling and arrogant and, in the end, embodied the character very well. However, the rest of the cast were mostly mediocre, leaving few memorable moments. In addition, the villain really fell short to my expectations (almost to the level of Galactus in the second Fantastic Four film).
“Arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all… It’s not about you” -The Ancient One
In many ways, Strange’s journey is similar to many of ours as so much from this story applies to real life. Most of the time, our pride, our fears, our knowledge (or lack thereof) drive us and guide us. The reality is, there is so much more that we can tap into spiritually if we just surrender ourselves. There is a perfect plan and perfect path laid out for us but we just have to open our eyes and open our hearts. Jesus says in Matthew 16:24-25 “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” It’s not an easy thing to do, and its something we have to do daily. Still, when we finally realize that our lives are not about us, we can freely open our hearts to Jesus and find that what we thought was the perfect life was actually far from it.
Dr. Strange is a film that I wish would have challenged the main character a little bit more in order to reach his inevitable potential. However, the visuals and overall film are good enough and therefore watchable.
Just maybe not at premium price.