Let’s be real, Doctor Strange deserved to be anticipated, and more than for just being the first new property to debut in the MCU’s Phase 3. The film’s absolutely brilliant cast, its outstanding visuals, its mystical subject matter – all harmonize to make not only a departure for the shared universe, but one of the company’s biggest bets yet.
Luckily, the risk paid off, providing one of the strongest installments yet in the Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. We’ll still have to wait and see if the box office take will back up this major success, but that can’t stop us from praising what writer-director Scott Derrickson and his collaborators have accomplished.
Then, let’s jump into the first 8 out of 15 Best Scenes in Doctor Strange.
15. ODIN’S ALIVE!
In the film’s mid-credits scene, we see Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) talking to someone off-screen in the New York Sanctum Sanctorum, offering him some drinks while preparing to discuss what will seem to be some serious business. The first prize of this scene is the revelation of Strange’s conversation partner: Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Thunder God, which leads to a fun little gag about Thor continuing to drink while the future Sorcerer Supreme continues to magically fill the glass up again.
But nothing can compare to the real thrust of the scene: Thor and his mischievous brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), are on Earth, trying to find their missing father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins). This not only serves as a tease at Thor Ragnarok, which is due to arrive almost exactly a year ago. Marvel has actually first attempted to do this with Ant-Man’s jump-forward to Captain America Civil War last year. But it’s also answering a question that has been causing fans anticipated ever since the end of 2013’s Thor The Dark World: what happened to Odin the King? While we still don’t have any firm answers, at least we now know that Odin is still alive, and that’s certainly something.
14. THE CAR CRASH
The traumatic event that forms Dr. Stephen Strange’s character arc into action has several different elements behind it. First, there is a shocking incident – the sudden onslaught of the accident, the swerving across the road, the flipping through the air, and the smashing down into the water. All of which emphasizes the excellent technical mastery behind the sequence, from the on-location shooting to the CG editing.
And then there’s the little flash of two references Doctor Strange 720p online makes to the greater MCU: over the phone, the magical superhero is offered a new case to work on involving an Air Force colonel who has severe spinal damage because of an accident in an armored suit – War Machine’s (Don Cheadle) injury suffered at the hands of the Vision (Paul Bettany).
13. THE VERY LONG NIGHT OF CHRISTINE PALMER
One of the film’s tragically-underused characters is Dr. Christine Palmer, also known as Night Nurse in the comics, not to be misunderstood with the other Night Nurse, Claire Temple played by Rosario Dawson, in the Defenders Netflix series, which both deprives Doctor Strange of some extra heart and continues the “girlfriend problem” in the Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.
Christine shines brightest when she responds to Strange, her ex-lover, after he comes back wounded into the hospital, dressed in his new “cult” outfit, spouting mystical mumbo-jumbo, and fixing a wound that appears to have been impossibly inflicted. The top notch would at first seem to be her witnessing a portal in the broom closet that allows Stephen to turn back to the New York Sanctum, but it’s overshadowed shortly later when Strange make a return visit. “Are you serious?” Christine reacts upon witnessing the telltale signs of the portal re-opening – until she sees a wounded Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), which stops her dead in her tracks.
Hilarious and heart breaking – Marvel’s specialty.
12. THE ANCIENT ONE’S RESCUE OF MASTER STRANGE
Stephen Strange and Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) are fighting against Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) and his apprentices in the mirror dimension, and the scene adapts the movie’s well-entrenched Inception-esque landscape-shifting technique. Although always being visually arresting and technically impressive, this approach style to magic battles has, by this point in Doctor Strange’s runtime, become a norm and internalized by the viewers; it’s now just another normal chase scene.
And finally the Ancient One shows up, upsetting the balance of the fight and changing the whole direction of the scene, just as Stephen is about to be slain by Kaecilius. From this moment, the movie starts to one-up itself, having Mordo realize that his master has been drawing power from the Dark Dimension, and everything goes downhill again when the Ancient One ends up taking Strange’s place as the zealots’ murder victim. It is a horrific haunting image.
11. A LITTLE LIGHT READING
Barring from certain books within Kamar-Taj’s library by Wong (Benedict Wong), the guardian of magical relics and tomes, Stephen finds his own solution: opening a series of small portals behind Wong’s back that are just big enough for him to shove his hand through and grab whatever advanced volume he has his little, ego-driven heart set on.
But the scene’s more than just a hilarious gag. Doctor Strange acts quickly without feeling rushed, and such economics in storytelling are perhaps most perfectly on display here, the audiences have a chance to see how much of the Magical Arts Strange has learned over the previous sequence while also successfully showcasing the character’s affinity for breaking rules.
10. THE ANCIENT ONE’S FINAL SCENE WITH STRANGE
For a film heavily focuses on action or mind-bending visuals, or both, Strange still manages to find some time for the quiet moments. The biggest and most heartbreaking of these is the farewell scene between Stephen Strange and the Ancient One, when his astral form chases hers out of the operating room to a balcony, overlooking New York. Visually, the moment is gold, given that the two are stretching one moment into “a thousand,” which the bolt of lightning that is forming in the clouds above and preparing to strike the ground.
But the real punch here is actually how Scott Derrickson regards their last moment together. While other movies would often make it a dramatic farewell, all emotionally and desperate hugs and sensual music, here it is a simple, sweet holding of the hands, and then nothing – the Ancient One just evanesces when she goes to the Other Side. The fact that the filmmakers decide to pass any cliché visual representations of death makes the scene much more impressive and memorable.
9. THE ASTRAL FIGHT
The clash between the astral representations of Doctor Strange and Lucian (Scott Adkins), one of Kaecilius’s most fervent zealots, surrounded by the former’s dying body while Christine Palmer tries to work it over is one of the brightest moments, taking full advantage of its various mystical elements as well as helping Strange to stand out from the rest of the comic-book adaptation crowd.
Of course, the little bits of humor appeared such as lights that get shorted out, or objects that get disheveled in the spirits’ power only help to emphasize the sequence’s uniqueness. Not mentioning its climax, when Christine pumps Strange’s body full of enough electrical current to vanquish Lucian’s astral form and in addition burning his physical body from all the way back in the New York Sanctum Sanctorum. Such a perfect ending!
8. THE CLOAK OF LEVITATION
The true hero of the movie is undoubtedly the Cloak of Levitation, considering that it is a piece of fabric and is entirely CG-made.
When the cloak is broken free from its display case and immediately hides the good doctor, it starts working in his best interests, punching his foes, helping him fly above the brawl, and tugging him out of harm’s way. But what probably ends up being the Cloak of Levitation’s most effective use is snapping off of Strange’s shoulders and wraps itself around Lucian’s head, blinding him and afterward slamming his head into the floor over and over again, its own unique way of helping to fight off the bad guys and helping the good doctor escape.
And although technically not part of this sequence, a follow-up moment must definitely be mentioned: after the death of the Ancient One, Stephen affixes the cape around his shoulders again, and it wipes away the tears off his face. He tells it to stop, and then carries on as if nothing had happened.
To be Continued…