I mentioned in my recent Sherlock post that rewatching Avengers: Infinity War* and paying a lot more attention to the character of Doctor Strange sparked a renewed appreciation for Benedict Cumberbatch. I mean, I’ve known about this guy since I was all of fourteen and he was a baby-faced nobody in Amazing Grace, and thirteen years later I’m watching him play a superhero. #RESPECT

Until last week, however, I had yet to see Doctor Strange’s origin story. It was definitely the most unusual Marvel film I’ve ever seen, but it was also one of the most thought-provoking.

“Dr. Stephen Strange’s life changes after a car accident robs him of the use of his hands. When traditional medicine fails him, he looks for healing, and hope, in a mysterious enclave. He quickly learns that the enclave is at the front line of a battle against unseen dark forces bent on destroying reality. Before long, Strange is forced to choose between his life of fortune and status or leave it all behind to defend the world as the most powerful sorcerer in existence.”–Google synopsis

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that Doctor Strange* is a bit…strange. My red flags start whipping in the breeze whenever people throw around phrases like “Sorcerer Supreme” and “Mystic Arts.” But once I actually watched the film, I found that these were more akin to J.R.R. Tolkien’s reluctant use of the word “wizard” simply because he couldn’t think of a fantasy-appropriate title for “Angel” (Gandalf’s true role within the Middle-Earth universe).

Similarly, Doctor Strange and his mentors aren’t actually using sorcery. They are harnessing the energy from the Multiverse. If you’ve seen Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse*, this makes perfectly good sense within Marvel’s concept of multiple realities. It may look like magic, or spells, or what have you–but even the mysterious Ancient One offers some alternative names for it: “programs” and “source codes.” Those who practice the Mystic Arts (i.e., those who know the source codes) are called “sorcerers,” but nobody is calling on demons or black magic…unless, of course, they’re using their skills to serve the powers of darkness.

Collage by Yours Truly (screencaps from http://kissthemgoodbye.net)

When Stephen Strange starts out on his journey to harness the Multiverse energy, however, he’s not doing it to fight evil, let alone do good. As a self-obsessed neurosurgeon, he makes Tony Stark look like a humble pup–until a tragic accident leaves his hands irreparably damaged. Embittered against everyone (including Christine Palmer, his compassionate coworker/ex-girlfriend), he seeks out the Ancient One after hearing that she can heal major injuries and disabilities.

But the Ancient One won’t teach him how to control his trembling hands just so he can go back to his old lifestyle. Control is Strange’s problem, rooted in his own pride and fear. If she gives him this gift, he must use it to protect the helpless–and he’ll only do that once he recognizes that the universe doesn’t revolve around him.

There are two startlingly biblical lessons in Doctor Strange*, and the first is something we rarely enjoy discussing: idolatry. Stephen starts out as the god of his own little world, his entire self-worth wrapped up in his truly extraordinary skills as a surgeon. But when that was taken away he felt he had no purpose, his hopelessness manifesting itself in bitterness and cruelty towards the one person who loved him the most.

But as he matures–learning from the Ancient One, forming true friendships, and reconciling with Christine in Marvel’s purest, most delicate romance scene–he finally learns humility. He doesn’t think less of himself, but he does think of himself less. He never is healed. His hands still shake at the end of the movie; his hands still shake even in Avengers: Endgame, as we see so poignantly when he raises that meaningful index finger at Tony Stark. But he’s okay with that now. He has surrendered control over that part of his life…and he is content. 

That’ll preach, y’all.

Collage by Yours Truly (screencaps from http://kissthemgoodbye.net)

The other biblical lesson is the value of recognizing our own mortality. This is something I’ve thought about a lot lately. When you believe that every moment lived in service to God is holy, and at the same time that there are days of remembrance, celebration, and even mourning, it keeps you mindful of the fact that you’re a pilgrim on a journey.

I was delighted to find this message in Doctor Strange. Spoiler alert, but the Ancient One gets killed about halfway through the movie. Before she dies, however, she’s able to communicate this last word of counsel to Stephen:

We don’t get to choose our time. Death is what gives life meaning–to know your days are numbered, your time is short. You’d think after all this time I’d be ready, but look at me: stretching one moment out into a thousand just so I can watch the snow.

“Teach us to number our days,” the Psalmist begged the Lord, “that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” The Ancient One’s final words not only give Stephen the courage he needs to value his own numbered days, but the humility to offer his own life a thousand times over in order to save the Earth.

And that, too, will preach.

So those are my thoughts on this very unique film! I have great hopes for Doctor Strange in future movies, not least among them being my desperate earnest hope that he and Christine Palmer will eventually get their happily-ever-after. Make it happen, Marvel: bring Rachel McAdams back, and make it happen. Shay and I are counting on it, and we will fight anyone who talks trash about our OTP.

ALSO, the Ancient One may be my favorite character, which I did not expect. She was just so awesome and funny and wise and flawed, I couldn’t help myself. And maybe now I’ll finally stop thinking of Tilda Swinton as the White Witch.

AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST, only a genius can go straight from playing Alan Turing to Hamlet to Stephen Strange. Very proud of that baby-faced nobody from Amazing Grace, y’all.

(Technically from Infinity War, but hey, it’s very cool.)

13 Comments on “Movie Review: “Doctor Strange”

    • Thanks so much!! I spent most of the movie going, “OOOH, that was a good line.” Well, actually I spent most of the movie cuddling my baby niece and hiding her eyes from the scary parts–but I was also thinking about how awesome it was and how I had NOT expected it to be that good, haha!

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  1. DOCTOR STRANGE!!!! *squeals excessively and runs for a box of kleenex* I love Doctor Strange so much. Loved your post about him, too!

    I too was a bit wary when I heard about the sorcerer stuff, but like you said, it’s pretty much like Gandalf or Harry Potter: this stuff is not literal Satanist demonic stuff. And the messages you can get from Doctor Strange are so good. I actually liked how you talked a lot about our days being numbered. That’s something I’m learning right now. I loved hearing you write about it from Doctor Strange.

    And my baby Benny! He’s come so far. I remember him in Amazing Grace as the Prime Minister – he was so wittle xD! Just love him in everything and anything. His Hamlet though…I need to see it…NOW (I’ve only seen clips and it’s killing me). *remembers Benedict Cumberbatch is Sherlock and wonders if Maribeth has watched season 4* *eyes Maribeth with scrutiny* 😉

    Anyways, this was a great post! Loved reading it and fangirling with you over Doctor Strange. Such a good film!

    Cheers!

    Emily 🙂

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    • (*looks sheepishly across the Interwebz at Emily*) I wish I could say I’ve seen Sherlock S4 by now, but…alas, alas…I haven’t. BUT IT’S ON MY CHRISTMAS LIST!!!! And I may get to watch Doctor Strange again before long, seeing as how my mom enjoyed my post enough to inform Dad, “We gotta see that one.” XD #myworkhereisdone

      I haven’t seen Hamlet, either, but I hear Benedict is phenomenal in it! I also read that he almost didn’t get to do Doctor Strange because he’d already signed on for Hamlet and didn’t want to go back on his word (bless him). So the big guys at Marvel actually accommodated and moved things around so he could do all the awesome things.

      Do you have any predictions/hopes for the good doctor in any future stories? 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hahaha no troubles, friend! I just cannot wait for you to see s.4!!!

        What a lil saint – keeping his promises and all that. Just love him. He’s so awesome.

        As for future predictions, I am really looking forward to Dr. Strange and the Nightmare Dimension (I think that’s what it’s called), and it’s supposed to be a horror apparently! Marvel’s first! Not sure what I feel about that… but I hear Wanda Maximoff is in it…but I hope they don’t do any romance between them. They are definitely an epic pair, but I ship him and Christine so hard 😍😍😍!!!!! And I hope we see the ancient one again – maybe he’ll time travel to a time when she existed like they did in Infinity War

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      • Wellllllllllllll, according to my research…(*adjusts glasses in a very scholarly fashion*)…the Doctor Strange sequel is supposed to be a tie-in with the Wanda/Vision TV show. ALSO. Highly reliable sources claim that Rachel McAdams IS coming back for said sequel, THEREFORE! I strongly suspect there’ll be no Stephen/Wanda ship, but that they’ll instead have a mentor/protege relationship (which would be incredibly squee-worthy, oh my gosh), leaving Stephen and Christine to do all sorts of lovely OTP things. Come to think of it, I think what I really want is for them to take care of Wanda. She needs someone to look after her now, since Vision has been so cruelly taken from her (and us). Is that too much to ask, Marvel???

        And YES, please bring back the Ancient One, even if it’s just for a flashback or a time travel scene! When Stephen was freaking out over his first astral projection and demanding to know what she’d put in that tea, and the Ancient One replied so sweetly, “It’s just tea…with a little honey”–I thought that was absolutely hilarious. Talk about downplaying the drama, lady XD

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      • YAY FOR RACHEL MCADAMS! That girl has been SHERLOCKED I tell you – first in the RDJ films as Irene Adler then in Dr. Strange as Cumberbatch’s love interest. Lol, I’m so glad she’ll be in the next film. I love her so much.

        I’m interested in the Wanda/Vision show…not sure how that will work (since he died), and I was never a fan of that ship.

        AND THE ANCIENT ONE’S ONE-LINERS ARE SOLID GOLD. I loved that line, too! She’s hilarious and snarky and just brilliant.

        Also, thanks so much for favoriting/following my story and me on Fanfiction.net! I’m glad you’re enjoying the story, and I hope you’ll keep reading! Which chapter are you on, if you don’t mind my asking?

        Cheers!

        Emily 🙂

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      • I just read the chapter you posted today!!! I did leave a review on it and I hope you’ll post a new chapter ASAP. I will fight Moriarty myself if he lays a finger on Baby Rosie. (Of course, Sherlock and John will get to him first long before I do, but it’s the thought that counts.)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. These are some great insights, Maribeth! I haven’t seen any MCU movies…(*sheepishly grins at all my friends who’ve been telling me how amazing they are…;) ) but this was really good and enjoyable for me to read! 🙂

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    • Hey, don’t feel bad! I didn’t get into Marvel movies until a whole year after the first Avengers movie came out. We get into fandoms in our own good time 😉 I’m glad you enjoyed the review! It was a lot of fun to write, and I’m so glad it’s received such a positive response!

      Liked by 1 person

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