#365DaysOfWriting — Day 181

Doctor Strange

It’s DOCTOR Strange (he’s very particular about that)

Let’s tick off the Marvel formula checklist first, shall we?

Great casting? Check.
Multiple gags/laughs? Check.
Pompous-but-brilliant protagonist with great facial hair who goes through traumatic life-altering experience? Check. (Okay only this one and Iron Man)
Throwaway villain? Check. 
Run-of-the-mill story you’ve seen before? Check.
Interesting post-credit scenes? Check.

What differentiates Doctor Strange from the others, then?

This film is the equivalent of having your head clouded by magic mushrooms and LSD at the same time. Watch this film in 3D (IMAX 3D, if you can) and you will be happily high during the course of this film. This has to be the most visually stunning film from Marvel till date. We did see a TINY glimpse (pun intended) of this gorgeous visual play in Ant-Man (when Scott goes subatomic) — Doctor Strange is that multiplied by a million times. Imagine being lost in one of those little kaleidoscope toys and being able to bend it to your will…

I spoke about great casting…

And it holds true even for Doctor Strange. Benedict Cumberbatch channels a little bit of his Sherlock persona into another dimension (literally and figuratively) to play the arrogant, brilliant Dr. Stephen Strange. He’s a lot more pompous than Marvel’s resident bad boy (so far), Tony Stark. Strange is the world’s best neurosurgeon, who spends money faster than he earns it, and has scant regard for his subordinates and peers. His life takes a tragic turn when a car accident robs him of his greatest gift — his hands. Extensive nerve damage reduces the once great Doctor to a shaking wreck, and in his arrogance he pushes away everyone (or just the one) who loves him.

In his desperation, and a search to get himself cured, he travels to Nepal to find a mystical being named simply, The Ancient One. He meets The Ancient One eventually — and much to his surprise, it’s a woman. Tilda Swinton, take a bow. Is there ANY role this woman cannot play? In a role that would’ve been controversial no matter who played it, she brings gravitas and meaning to the Ancient One, saving him from being a stereotype. Even with Cumberbatch’s presence, she’s the the glue that binds this origin story.

Mads Mikkelsen, sadly, is under-utilised, and joins the pantheon of potentially great-yet-wasted villains in the MCU. He plays Kaecilius, a former student of the Ancient One gone rogue. (Does this remind ANYBODY of Kung Fu Panda? Master Shifu and Tai Lung? Anybody?)

The next man we come to is Karl Mordo, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. Again, his origins are nothing like the original comic book character, and he brings a more grounded approach to Mordo, and here he’s Doctor Strange’s ally rather than a villain. There’s more to him than meets the eye.

There’s nothing much for Christine Palmer to do, and again, an actress of Rachel McAdams’ calibre is wasted. Oh well, this was an origin story, and I hope to God she doesn’t go the way of Jane Foster in the MCU…

If Guardians of the Galaxy introduced us to Cosmic Marvel, Doctor Strange introduces us to Mystic Marvel.

Kevin Feige has this planned out perfectly. While taking us along the Marvel journey in the MCU, he’s unlocking various aspects of the comic book universe, like you would normally if you followed a comic book series. Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye are Earth’s heroes. Then we have the Asgardians, Thor and Loki — they bring with them threats from a world other than ours, so humans realise they’re not alone. Thanos is the eventual big villain they’re building up to, and we find a ragtag bunch of space jockeys running from him, and defeating one of his minions — I’m talking about Guardians of the Galaxy, of course. And now, we are introduced to chakras, alternate realities, portals and… well, just plain magic. It has been a methodical unwrapping of the treats Marvel has to offer.

You know the Marvel drill. Don’t wait until ALL the credits are over and done with.

There are a couple of interesting scenes after the movie ends — one during mid-credits and one post-credits. Wait for both.

So, while the film is formulaic in a Marvel sense, and suffers from a run-of-the-mill story and average villain, Doctor Strange is a film that MUST be experienced on the big screen. There is no let up in entertainment, that I can guarantee.

And where else will you find Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton and Mads Mikkelsen fighting in a city that’s collapsing and bending — like Inception on steroids?