What do Ant-Man, Thor, Captain America and Iron Man all have in common? Aside from casual vigilantism, each of the star Marvel properties have now been overtaken at the box office by the cloak wearing, spell-making machine Doctor Strange. Tasked with rejuvenating the MCU, the Sorcerer Supreme has now reached $616m worldwide, astral-soaring above his peers in some style.
Scott Derrickson's spiritually themed superhero movie has captured the boundless imagination of audiences, providing a refreshing take on the genre and opening new portals within the shared universe. That success has been reflected in an impressive worldwide run, with more money making its way into Disney's considerable piggy-bank over the coming weeks.
Out of the 14 released #MCU movies, #DoctorStrange is now ninth for worldwide box office receipts, a feat even more impressive considering the film is an individual origin story. In comparison: Iron Man (2008) made $585.2m; Ant-Man (2015) $519.3m; Thor (2011) $449.3m; Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) $370.6m and The Incredible Hulk (2008) $263.4m.
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Now reigning supreme as the best performing solo debut, Doctor Strange will have 2010's Iron Man 2 ($623.9m) and 2013's Thor: The Dark World ($644.6m) in its sights. That's with a release in Japan still to come in January 2017, where the previous MCU instalment, Captain America: Civil War, made $24.3m.
Delving below the dollar-covered surface of the MCU box office raises some interesting questions. Above them all, is Doctor Strange really the best origin story to date? And, consequently, is it better than the MCU's first ever movie – #IronMan?
Is 'Doctor Strange' Now Officially Better Than 'Iron Man?'
There's certainly a lot of confidence from within Marvel Studios that #BenedictCumberbatch can drive Phase Three forward, reflected in recent comments made by Kevin Feige, who confirmed the character was "number one among the characters we wanted to bring forth."
It's not hard to see why; opening the door to a new, mystical world has also opened endless possibilities. Cumberbatch himself has an air of charisma with a touch of arrogance, akin to Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark.
Comparisons between the two films have justifiably been made. Both feature a money-driven, narcissistic protagonist who endures personal turmoil to reach the point where they realize the error of their ways, change their way of thinking, and end up a redeemed superhero in the process — all done in a manner that is both acerbic and endearing.
Difference In Similarity
However, in terms of ability, both characters are at opposite sides of the spectrum. While Tony Stark relies on the gift of intellect and skill, engineering his iconic armour to help him defeat the bad guys, Stephen Strange turns to the mystic arts, capitalizing on an understanding of the metaphysical to aid him in his quest for good.
It's also important to remember that without Iron Man, Doctor Strange wouldn't exist. Tony Stark's introduction paved the way for the MCU, setting the stall for the Brave New World of shared universes and intertwined stories. The film perfectly laid the foundation for Stark to become an integral part of Marvel's interconnected journey – the $1.214bn box office for Iron Man 3 (2013) wasn't too bad either.
While Iron Man launched the MCU, Doctor Strange has revitalized it, making it attractive to an even wider pool of movie fans for its uniqueness and visual style, much like Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). These qualities may result in the dimension-hopping hero taking center stage of the MCU, possibly beyond #RDJ's last hurrah.
And while Doctor Strange may not necessarily be better or worse than Iron Man, in terms of stepping up to the superhero pedestal, the film's box office performance is the perfect demonstration of why Marvel, and Feige, may have again made a smart move.