Are you prepared to be amazed and astounded? The doctor will see you now – #DoctorStrange is finally making a big splash in the world of cinema as the 14th theatrical addition to the MCU. It comes complete with a snazzy new logo that goes over the past eight years of Marvel films, starting with Iron Man in 2008 and going off into the infinity of the foreseeable future.
So, how does the new boy on the block fair up against Norse gods and Hulks? The walking, talking, magian with a dodgy goatee and a levitating cloak – what's it all about? If you are a "Strange virgin" (careful how you word that), here is our dummies guide to the wistful wizard. Abracadabra!
1. Stephen Strange
He's not a Mister, he's not a Stephen – he is in fact a "Doctor." It is rather "strange" to hear Benedict Cumberbatch back in his American twang, but as the titular Doctor Strange, he steals the show. A skilled neurosurgeon, Strange starts the film at the peak of his medical game in New York. His ultimate tool is those beefy hands of his, which is a bit of a bummer when one night his car careers off the road.
Car crushed and hands ruined, it looks like Strange's career is over. Consequently, his life goes off the rails and he goes full tramp – he grows a long beard and long hair. It looks like life is over for Stephen, that is until he meets a reformed paraplegic who sends Strange on a mysterious quest to Kamar-Taj.
So, what is this mystical place? Set in the Himalayan mountains, Kamar-Taj is the ancient sanctuary of the sorcerers (aka Masters of the Mystic Arts) in Doctor Strange – you will be pleased to know it does have wi-fi though.
After his accident, Strange is sent to Kamar-Taj to train under the guidance of The Ancient One. Serving as the hub of mystical powers, Kamar-Taj also has doorways that lead to the London, Hong Kong and New York factions of the sorcerers. This is the first location we visit in the film, and it is here where Strange spends most of the film.
Now we need a villain – in steps Mads Mikkelsen, still hungry for violence from his Hannibal days to play Kaecilius. A former pupil of the Masters of the Mystic Arts, Kaecilius has his own plans. The film opens with him trying to keep powers for himself and branching off from the rest of the sorcerers. He is convinced that summoning powers from the dark realm will give him everlasting life.
Sadly though, his use of bad juju leads to his eyes burning up, and looking like a tiling project gone wrong. Kaeclilius is dubbed "the thinking man's villain," and is probably the closest Marvel has got to (yet) in solving their bad guy problem.
4. The Ancient One
"Always two there are, no more, no less." Following the master and apprentice rule, Tilda Swinton reigns as the Sorcerer Supreme. She may seem an unlikely candidate, and the film even pokes fun at the whole Man Behind the Curtain a'la Batman Begins, when Strange mistakes a stereotypical old Asian man to be the person in charge.
The Ancient One has been alive for an unknown amount of time, and only she is allowed to go into the Hogwarts restricted section of books in the library. She says that she cannot see into the future of Strange, only that she can see his untapped potential and an infinite number of opportunities for him. It isn't long before he becomes the teacher's pet, but is all well in Kamar-Taj?
- Forget Kaecilius, Baron Mordo May Have Solved The MCU's Villain Problem In 'Doctor Strange'
- 'Doctor Strange' Currently Has An Insanely High Rotten Tomatoes Score
- Benedict Cumberbatch Plays More Than One Part In 'Doctor Strange,' It Seems
Talking of The Ancient One, you can't look up Tilda Swinton's casting without coming across the word "whitewashing." Joining the mountain of recent films that have come under fire for racially sensitive casting, the internet was furious that a stereotypically Tibetan character would be played by (the definitely not Tibetan) Tilda Swinton. The issue reached fever-pitch with actor George Takei dubbing Marvel "idiots" for their decision. The studio responded with the following:
"Marvel has a very strong record of diversity in its casting of films and regularly departs from stereotypes and source material to bring its MCU [Marvel cinematic universe] to life. The Ancient One is a title that is not exclusively held by any one character, but rather a moniker passed down through time, and in this particular film the embodiment is Celtic. We are very proud to have the enormously talented Tilda Swinton portray this unique and complex character alongside our richly diverse cast."
When watching the film, the issue of whitewashing doesn't even come into your mind – with an ethnically diverse cast, Swinton is just an other actor doing her best.
6. Christine Palmer
We have the hero, we have the villain, but where is the leading lady? Well, tucked away at the back is Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer. Although there is relatively little that alludes to it, Palmer eventually takes on the mantle as hero Night Nurse.
If McAdams returns, expect us to explore that avenue a little further. Many assumed that it would be the comic character Clea which would be the heroine, serving as Strange's most notable love interest. However, Producer Kevin Feige said he wanted something that tied Strange to his old life in New York. You never really get to the bottom of what Strange and Palmer are/were, and it is all part of the mystery.
7. Karl Mordo
Then there is Chiwetel Ejiofor as Strange's partner in crime, but with an undercurrent of something more. The Mordo of the comics comes under the alias Baron Mordo (which already sounds villainous) and is a straight up bad guy, who even tries to kill The Ancient One. Ejiofor's version acts as Strange's mentor, and has a wise quality about him. Explaining the character change, Ejiofor has said:
"He’s a mentor to Strange and there’s a growing respect between the two of them – he sees a lot of skill in Strange – and then things get complicated."
The film version is apparently an amalgamation of several characters, although an evil version of Mordo could be back for the inevitable sequel. Ejiofor does at least stick to the source material by spending the film running around in a green tunic!
8. Eye of Agamotto
Now available from your local branch of Claire's Accessories, the must-have piece of neckwear for the AW16 collection. The Eye of Agamotto allows the wearer to see through disguises and into other dimension, it is one of the most powerful objects on Earth, and was used by The Ancient One. We aren't going to tell you how the Doc gets his hands on it, but the posters show that he clearly does!
Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, the eye is drawn to be similar to the All Seeing Eye of the Buddha. According to Director Kevin Feige, the Eye is able to manipulate probability and time, leading many to think it could possibly be one of Thanos's searched for Infinity Stones. If so, it links Doctor Strange perfectly into the upcoming Infinity War films
Leading the pack as the secondary/intergalactic villain is Dormammu, basically a big head from another dimension. If you haven't heard of Dormammu, he has actually been around since 1964, and served as a major pain in the ass for Doctor Strange since. In the film his voice work is credited to an unnamed actor, but it is in fact Cumberbatch himself who plays the physical part of the giant floaty head. Director Scott Derrickson revealed:
"We knew it was an all CG character, but as we were in production Benedict brought it up as an idea. He said, ‘What would you think about me doing it?’ I said, ‘Let me think about it, you know.’"
Obviously you can't tell that Cumberbatch is dual rolling, but it is a nice little Easter egg for fans.
10. Mirror Realm
Giving the film its weird Inception vibe comes from the Mirror Realm, a dimension where your actions won't alter the real world. Here you can fold a city in half, split a man in two, or dive off a skyscraper without harming "real life." It gives the film its Guardians of the Galaxy feel and means that you have to watch it in IMAX to get the full effect.
Even if you don't, Doctor Strange is still one of the most visually stunning films out there. If you suffer from motion sickness though, you might want to give it a miss.
Benedict Wong plays Wong, so that is easy to remember. As the stern librarian and key part of the Masters of the Mystic Arts, he guards the books at Kamar-Taj. Wong gets most of the film's laughs, and even develops a fondness for listening to Beyonce – not bad for a character that first appeared in Strange Tales #110 in 1963 and remained unnamed until Issue #119.
Even then it wasn't much of a push to come up with "Wong." Thankfully, it was announced that Benedict Wong will reprise his role in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War.
Finally, what is the point of a Marvel film if it is just a one-trick pony? Doctor Strange seems like one of the old gang, perfectly cementing himself alongside the likes of Iron Man and Thor as a likable character in his own little world. Which team he will be joining, and in which capacity, remains to be seen, but with the recent announcement that Doctor Strange has joined the comic-verse version of The Avengers, expect Cumberbatch to put on the cape again some time soon. There are not one, but two, post-credit scenes which set up for two completely different "Strange" tales to come.
Now that you are all tooled up and ready to go, pick up your 3D glasses, grab some popcorn, and sit down for a trippy two hours of cinema. With the film currently rated as the best film to come out of the MCU, it is not hard to see the appeal of Doctor Strange. With its relatable human characters, meta take on the modern world, and colorful backdrop, it is pulling a magic trick when it comes to the box office.
Check out the trailer for Doctor Strange, and don't forget the poll below.