Quick review: Doctor Strange

I’m not sure what it was, but I was very intrigued to see the latest movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Doctor Strange. On Friday night we packed the family into the car and caught an evening showing, most of us without a real sense of what our expectations should be.

First off, this review WILL have some spoilers. So this is your warning to turn away if you want to see the movie fresh, which I would highly recommend. Before you go though, just know that this is a great, great movie, and probably my newest favorite movie in the MCU. Frankly, it’s really THAT good.

Now that we’re in spoiler territory, the first thing I want to say is that I was incredibly impressed with how they handled the Doctor’s origin story. I felt like they spent enough time on it that it I really got to invest myself in who Stephen Strange was, which made it much easier to accept who he became. You get to watch as he grows in the mystic arts, developing his talent with his photographic memory, as he strives to regain his life.

But then, everything gets thrown into chaos when the forces of darkness rise up, and the Doctor has to make a choice between ignoring the conflict, returning to his life as a skilled surgeon, or joining into the fight. Because Stephen Strange was such an egomaniac in his old life, you expect that he will have a change of heart and become a more humble human being. Yet, the thing that impressed me the most about this movie is that it wasn’t until the moment of death of the Ancient One that it finally happens. It’s also not from anything he does, but a key conversation in the spectral plane where the Ancient One tells him straight up, “It’s not about you.”

This is the central theme of the movie, and I felt that we got to see it played out both in Strange’s journey, and in the Ancient One as she admits that she’s been drawing on dark energy to prolong her life. She made a sacrifice and compromise that, in the end, caused sorcerers like Mordo to fall away, convinced that she had betrayed everything that they stood for. Yet, it was for the good of others that the Ancient One did what she did, and that was the lesson that Strange had to learn and take to heart.

In the end, taking the risk to possibly endure an eternity of torment and death, just to keep time looping over and over again, is a very spiritual type of sacrifice. Christian text teaches that Christ took on the punishment for our sins so that we may live, and that is very close to what happens in Doctor Strange. Stephen must endure painful death after painful death, just to convince Dormammu to leave Earth and never return.

Because the writers of the movie made Mordo a friend of Doctor Strange at the start of the movie, their falling apart was even more painful. Especially when you realize that he will probably be the antagonist in the next film. The phenomenal acting of Cumberbatch and Ejiofor made this movie amazing, and when you throw in Tilda Swinton and Benedict Wong the entire cast really came alive. I can even consider forgiving the whitewashing of the Ancient One character with a non-asian actor. I still don’t like the whitewashing, but Swinton is so amazing in the role that if you didn’t know any better you’d never question it.

When Doctor Strange ended (and the extra mid and post-credit scenes finished) I was left feeling incredibly satisfied. This was one of the most enjoyable MCU movies I have seen, and the story, along with top notch acting, made me incredibly grateful I went to see this movie in the theater. This is easily my favorite MCU movie so far, and I can’t recommend enough, that you should go see it.

 

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