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What the audiences remember the most when mentioning the Doctor Strange movie is not its dizzying visual effects but it is the slowly surprising feeling that they are in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
It took half of the movie, around one hour for us to reach the moment when a librarian (Benedict Wong) tells surgeon-turned-sorcerer-in-training Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) that Strange’s fellow students aren’t just budding masters of arcana, but a cosmic complement to the Avengers in defending the Earth against malevolent outsiders. And that was the only time we heard the big team name. Unlikely to feed into the ever-expanding and ever-complicated narrative web of the MCU, Doctor Strange win big by staying small and solely.
In the movie, Doctor Strange 720p Online, a hotshot neurosurgeon who reminds us all of Tony Stark-style arrogance, got in a serious car crash and got his hands rendered and become useless. On his way pursuing a possible road to recovery, he tracks down Jonathan Pagborn (Benjamin Bratt), a former paraplegic who advised him to seek out the Kamar-Taj in Kathmandu, Nepal. After that, he met the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and fellow student Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), and learned of Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), a fallen pupil who stole pages from a spellbook and wanted to merge Earth with a being in the Dark Dimension in order to gain eternal life.
It may sound complicated in words but the truth is Strange glossed over the logic of these multiple dimensions, siding with action over exposition. Doctor Strange combines the best spell fights from Harry Potter movie and the tessellating dream – architecture of Inception and the trippiness of the Star Child sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey. That is why it was one of the only installments of the MCU that demands to be seen in full 3-D.
The spellbooks which are full of Villains
The lack of compelling antagonists is the most enduring problems in the MCU. We all know villain Thanos has been who acquire the Infinity Stones for his gauntlet. But he is just like the enemies in too many Marvel movies—Guardians of the Galaxy, Iron-Man 3, even Captain America Civil War—faded from memory soon after the credits rolled. But that was not the case for Mikkelsen as Kaecilius whose eyes benefit from some of the best makeup work the MCU has seen. Mikkelsen was so domineering and effortlessly sharp that he will indelibly memorized despite his role was clearly functioning as a one-and-done foes.
The reason behind Doctor Strange success was the layering conflict. The Ancient One was much more than a benevolent teacher. And then there was Mordo’s arc turning Ejiofor’s character from rival to something more pleasingly existential. If you are familiar with Strange in comics, you would know that something larger was planned for Mordo – but the movie could not improved even more simply by swapping his role with Cumberbatch. However, it was gratifying to see Cumberbatch, sporting a Vincent Price goatee and oozing with arrogance, getting his ass and brain handed to him by a bald female monk, a black warrior, and an Asian librarian.
It can’t be denied that the best aspect of Doctor Strange is its talk of parallel dimensions – Mirror, Dark and many others – and the visual fireworks transporting Stephen through landscapes that would warp even MC Escher’s mind. Only a narrow community of sorcerers were affected by the events of the movie. Just like Ant Man, the origin story of Doctor Strange is one of the small-scale discovery, not averting global apocalypse although the Avengers are headline-grabbing heroes whose exploits dominate newscasts. And the usual MCU face-off formula was edged away even by the third act’s climactic battle in a mind-bending way without completely overloading the audiences.
The Next Phase of Marvel
Phase One of MCU was spent to assemble the Avengers while Phase Two witnessed the explosive conflict between Iron Man and Captain America. Now Phase Three, which began with Civil War and will comprise 10 films over the next few years, will have on its shoulders the burden of resolving the Infinity Stone storyline. Moreover, the challenges will be add up with introducing many less recognisable characters. But thanks to Doctor Strange and its only hints at to the main threae, Ant Man and the Wasp will continue their heroes’ stories. And Black Panther will have his own eponymous standalone movie, and to catch up with Wonder Woman of DC, Captain Marvel will put a female lead on the MCU Map.
However, there was still regret about Rachel McAdams’ talents and the Bechdel Test in spectacular fashion. And we can not forget our fear for the universe’s Borg-like expansion which will continue to add more characters to an already crowded stable. Luckily, Doctor Strange has memorable, complex characters and action sequences, along with a visual style that set it apart from the previous 13 Marvel films. The studio will know it can do the original story right even if many team-up movies start to sag under the weight of gratuitous crossovers.