So #DoctorStrange has finally come and gone, and the whole thing has left us with just as many questions as it has answers. One of the big topics of discussion has been the matter of the antagonist, as #Marvel are often accused of having a "villain problem" when it comes to their much loved #MarvelCinematicUniverse. And whilst Mads Mikkelsen's #Kaecilius may have missed the mark somewhat, he wasn't the only villain of the piece.
There was, of course, the set-up for Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) to become as villainous as his comic book counterpart in later movies, but another major antagonist from Doctor Strange's back catalogue was introduced towards the conclusion of Doctor Strange, and the way he was handled may have seemed more than a little strange to some people.
Now this is your one and only *SPOILER ALERT*, as this post discusses the final battle of Doctor Strange, and the hidden, final antagonist. So don't read on if you don't want to know.
If you're still with us you'll know that the climactic battle of Doctor Strange saw Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) facing off against the dread #Dormammu, with the already famous "Dormammu, I've come to bargain" repeating sequence of battle marking a very odd conclusion to this major confrontation.
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And so it was to many an odd way to end the movie, after sequences of magic, battles, and incredible effects. When it comes to #superhero movies we typically assume a major physical showdown of sorts between the hero and the villain, but the major confrontation of Doctor Strange ended with the titular hero entering into what has been criticized as being an anti-climactic sequence, facing off against the majorly powerful antagonist, Dormammu.
Dormammu does eventually cave to Strange's demands, when the doctor uses the Time Stone (concealed within the Eye of Agamotto) to reverse the damage done to Hong Kong, and to trap the villain in a loop of time from which he can only escape by relinquishing his desires upon the planet. When The Avengers cumulates in the near-destruction of New York, and hundreds die trying to combat Ronan (Lee Pace) in Guardians of the Galaxy, it feels like a slightly anticlimactic ending.
Or, at least, it may have felt that way to those of us who may not be old-school readers of #MarvelComics. While this doesn't excuse the slightly deflating ending, it does mark an interesting call back to the early days of Strange Tales, and of Doctor Strange himself.
Doctor Strange first confronts Dormammu in person way back in the 1950s, in Strange Tales 126. In this issue Dormammu is threatening to leave the Dark Dimension to enter that of Earth. The #AncientOne is feeling bit too frail to battle him, so sends Strange in his stead. Strange travels to the Dark Dimension to face Dormammu, and after defeating many of his minions (and catching the attention of Clea, his future wife), proves himself worthy to face the ruler of the Dark Dimension himself.
Modern comic book readers are used to vivid, detailed and dynamic panels, with the advancements in technology and expectations of artwork that now prop up the creation of comic art. But early Marvel comic panels were often quite static, even in the psychedelic artwork of Strange Tales.
Indeed, this is the case of Strange's first battle with Dormammu. Early Doctor Strange battles typically consisted more of words exchanged than of blows, and he typically defeated his enemies not through sheer physical strength, but by being just much, much smarter than them (and better as spellcasting). In this era of the comics, action was described through the character's thoughts and words rather than shown on panel.
Because, for Doctor Strange, words have always been where the source of his strength lies — they are where his famous catchphrases and spells take their power, after all. He's never been a physically imposing hero, panels of his early tales usually take the form of Strange's inner monologue, explaining the motions behind his actions as he moves to craft spells to combat his enemy. So, while it may seem outwardly that the battle is easy won, it is far from it.
Doctor Strange first defeats Dormammu — an enemy who is far out of his league — by actually helping the villain defeat the escaped Mindless Ones, who threaten both Dormammu and Strange. Strange bets his victory on the fact that Dormammu will be too proud to kill him after he has effectively saved the dark one's life, and he wins that bet. Strange's power, in addition to his sorcery, has long been his intellect and his ability to predict the outcome of situations and so manipulate them to his own will.
Such is the case of his win over Dormammu in Doctor Strange. Strange is young here, inexperienced in the ways of the sorcerer and a complete novice when it comes to battling extra-dimensional beings. But taking a bit of pluck, a dash of exposition and a big gamble, he manages to use his logic to trap Dormammu in a situation where the dark one's freedom comes at the cost of Strange's victory. While it may have seemed anti-climactic in terms of lack of a big physical battle like we may be used to, it perfectly fits the tone of Doctor Strange's character — especially early days Strange Tales.
But of course, as in the comics, Dormammu is not so easily defeated. As a super powerful and majorly dangerous antagonist, it would be a surprise to not see him returning in the MCU. And though Strange may have outsmarted him before, this only means Dormammu has now marked the sorcerer as his arch nemesis, and will return to exact his particular brand of vengeance before long. As if Thanos wasn't enough trouble to be getting on with...
What did you think of the final battle in Doctor Strange? Sound off in the comments, and check out our Doctor Strange trailer mash-up below!