“Its not about you.” ~The Ancient One
What is this?
Last year, Marvel Studios released their fourteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Doctor Strange is directed by Scott Derrickson and stars Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen, and the beloved Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular main character, Steven Strange.
Strange is a world class neurosurgeon. When a car crash ruins his hands, something important to any surgeon, he seeks help all over the globe, resulting in his discovery of a temple called Kamar-Taj in Nepal. The order of magicians residing there show him a world of magic and sorcery beyond anything he’d ever seen or believed in, setting Steven on his path to becoming the iconic sorcerer, Doctor Strange.
What’s the context?
This movie came on the tail end of a year crammed with mediocre summer blockbusters. Most people were ready and waiting for something new and more inspired out of the Fall of 2016, and usually the Fall is when the blockbuster season ends and you get somewhat higher quality movies, like the ones contending for Academy Awards. After the politically complicated Captain America: Civil War, a Marvel film that leans on the mystical, magical side of the comic book universe was a welcome one.
What does this movie have to say?
Our hurts and trials are useless to us when its about us, because all those things do is keep us from what we want. When Steven Strange breaks his hands, he becomes an angry man. He had a lot of great things going for him: a high-paying job that he was literally the best at, a potential romantic relationship, he was living the professional dream. But, everything he worked on, spent money on, or helped with was to increase himself. He only took the hardest cases, the ones that will get him the most attention, because he wanted the fame of being the guy that did the impossible. He asks a woman out to an event that he was speaking at that night, just to show off. As if that would be a real treat for her.
When something as small as his hands takes this all away from him, he gets mad at the world and is caught in the “why is this happening to me” thought cycle. There’s really no way out of that place when all the good and prosperity you want is for you.
“While heroes like the Avengers protect the world from physical dangers, we sorcerers safeguard it against more mystical threats” ~ Wong
When Steven Strange runs across a mysterious order of magicians in Nepal in pursuit of someone who can heal his hands, he finds something much bigger. In the story, there exist three “sanctums” across the globe, run by these magicians that keep the world safe from the dark powers that be. These mystics show Strange that while the magic they use can indeed heal his hands, healing injuries really isn’t what they’re all about.
Strange is in a hurry to get healed and get out, calling BS on these wizard’s “magic”; but when he is shown what threats exist and the immensity of the power the magicians wield, he gives them another chance. He learns magic. Teleportation, time travel, combat, and how this power can keep other-dimensional evil at bay.
What he discovers here is a purpose which he accepts to be much bigger and more important than him. His profession, his lifestyle, money, and time had all been for him, and he was the only one who benefited from them. When we realize a higher purpose, a greater good, when we learn to look outward, suddenly we can use the weird, hard things in our life to help others. Our skills and the good things in our life don’t look like assets that can gain us fame and fortune, but tools to help others. A victory for somebody you helped becomes your victory, and you don’t need the credit.
“You cannot beat a river into submission. You have to surrender to its current, and use its power as your own.” ~ The Ancient One
Steven Strange saw his accident as a frustration and a curse until he realized how he could use this new direction in his life.
Why should you see this?
I think this movie digs deeper than most Marvel films for thematic meaning. With a director like Scott Derrikson, a Christian, and normally a director of horror films, I’d say one can expect his approach to a superhero wizard movie to be thoughtful and intentional in it’s messages. This movie puts a cool, mystical spin on the ever-expending Marvel Cinematic Universe, and adds to it some memorable characters and lore.
Visually interesting and spectacular, thematically dense, a bit of weak acting, clunky pacing. 3/5 stars