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The Dr. Is in the House: Marvel's Dr. Strange Scores Big With Fans

Updated on March 27, 2020
Robert J Sodaro profile image

Robert J. Sodaro is an American-born writer, editor, and digital graphic artist who loves writing about comics, movies, and literature.

Dr. Strange

The Dr. is so totally in the house!
The Dr. is so totally in the house! | Source


Dr. Strange: Rated PG-13“ (1 hour, 55 minutes)

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen

Directed by: Scott Derrickson

It came from the Comics!

Doctor Stephen Vincent Strange (who is more colloquially known as simply as Dr. Strange) is (in spite of having just showing up in the Marvel Comics Cinematic Universe) one of the original characters who arrived on the scene at the very dawn of the Silver Age of Marvel Comics. Created by artist Steve Ditko and writer Stan Lee (who was also the team that gave us Spider-Man), first appeared in Strange Tales #110 (cover-dated July 1963). In both the comic as well in the film, Strange starts out as a brilliant (yet thoroughly egotistical) surgeon.

Essential Doctor Strange, Vol. 1 (Marvel Essentials) (v. 1)

Essential Doctor Strange, Vol. 1 (Marvel Essentials)
Essential Doctor Strange, Vol. 1 (Marvel Essentials)
Stephen Strange is Doctor Strange. But he is no doctor, and least not the kind that would initially come to mind. He is the Master of the Mystic Arts, a sorcerer supreme, a white knight who wields black magic against blacker villains still. Strange is mankind's only hope against the dark otherworldly forces that conspire to destroy the conscious world - forces such as Baron Mordo, the Dread Dormammu, Nightmare, Aggamon, The House of Shadows, Loki, the Mindless Ones and more. Collected here in glorious black and white is the run of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's amazing run of Strange Tales #110,

Building a Proper Hero

After a car crash (in the film, from texting while driving fast along a narrow, winding, rain-slicked mountain road), that effectively destroys the use of his hands, thus hindering his ability to perform surgery, Strange (Cumberbatch) searches for a way to repair them, chasing down all sorts of traditional, non-traditional, and experimental procedures. Eventually he runs out of options and seeks out even more — shall we say, esoteric — methods of repairing his damaged digits, and he travels to the other side of the world where he encounters the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), who is this realm’s Sorcerer Supreme. Needless to say, as a man of science and medicine, Strange totally doesn’t buy into her mystical swami act; at least at first, but after spending some time in her presence and seeing for himself the actual power that The Ancient One and her followers wield, he begins to understand that there is actually more that he doesn’t know than that he does, and he willing becomes one of her students.

Doctor Strange Official Trailer 2

Setting it All Up!

Convinced by her startling abilities, Strange signs on as one of her students, quickly becoming a fairly adept practitioner of both the mystical as well as martial arts himself. As his knowledge and comprehension of learning many powerful spells, he comes to acquire a pair of very powerful mystical objects to use in his practice — the Cloak of Levitation and the Eye of Agamotto — both of which give him added powers and become part of a very powerful arsenal of enchanted devices. In the comic, Strange is aided along the way by his friend and valet, Wong — who in the film is the Ancient One’s librarian and a fellow sorcerer as well as Mordo (Ejiofor) — who in the comic is actually a villain. Here, Kaecilius (Mikkelsen) is the main villain. Kaecilius is another (former) student of The Ancient One, who has broken away from her teachings and has struck a deal with Dormammu (the ruler of an alternate dimension) with godlike powers and abilities. Now the novice Strange, along with Wong (ironically played by actor Benedict Wong) and Mordo must stand against both Kaecilius and his minions as well as the dark lord Dormammu himself.

Stephen Strange, the Doctor

Before he was a sorcerer, he was a Dr.
Before he was a sorcerer, he was a Dr. | Source

Setting the Stage

No, as for the film itself. This will stand as one of the finest Marvels superhero films that has been made thus far, as well as the standard by which all others must now reach. Steve Ditko, unlike any comicbook artist before or since has had his own unique style of illustration. This was especially true on Dr. Strange, particularly when Strange entered into alternate realities, which all had the tendency to look like M.C. Escher on acid, after a ‘shroom-and-Uncle Jack bender, watching animated gifs of Peter Max’s ‘Op Art, as you float through space, in an isolation chamber, reading Carlos Castaneda, while watching Altered States. Except, you know, out there.

Steve Ditko's Dr. Strange

This is how Steve Ditko saw Strange.  (Pictured art by Tom Palmer and Dan Adkins).
This is how Steve Ditko saw Strange. (Pictured art by Tom Palmer and Dan Adkins). | Source

Nailing it, Right and Proper!

Needless to say, the Special Effects Supervisor and his team, totally nailed it.

Strange, by Ditko

The one and only...
The one and only... | Source

Faithful to Steve Ditko's Vision

The film was visually and thematically totally faithful to Ditko’s vision of the good Dr. delivering to us an amazing vision of what can be done on screen. Even Cumberbatch did a compelling stunning job as Dr. Strange (even though a young comicbook friend of mine has some sort of odd bias against him for reasons that escape understanding). But I digress. Like all of the early Marvel tales from that era, the story perfectly epitomizes the 12 Stages Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth.

Let the Magicks begin!

Here comes the Magic!
Here comes the Magic! | Source

Joseph Campbell’s Hero's Journey

The Hero's Journey

  1. Ordinary World
  2. Call to Adventure
  3. Refusal of The Call
  4. Meeting the Mentor
  5. Crossing the Threshold
  6. Tests, Allies, Enemies
  7. Approach to The Inmost Cave
  8. Ordeal
  9. Reward (Seizing the Sword)
  10. The Road Back
  11. Resurrection
  12. Return with The Elixir

Doctor Strange - Movie Trailer # 3 (2016)

Building a Better Hero

The Hero’s journey motif is so essential to the proper telling of a truly epic superhero origin that the only way to truly tell the tale is to actually get it right, and writers Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill (along with Steve and Stan when they first crafted it) knew that implicitly when penning both this as well as the original tale. This is such a well-made film that it is well worth watching even if you have not as of yet ever encountered Steven Strange in comics. Further, not only does it have the “No Texting” PSA at the beginning of the film, about halfway through Strange gets perhaps the most important life lesson that anyone could ever learn when The Ancient One informs him “It’s not about you.” In order to learn, to grow, to evolve and become fully who we were meant to be, we need to empty ourselves of all of our pre-conceived notions of not only ourselves, but the world around us and be willing to — not just learn things about ourselves — but learn things about the world around us, especially that conflict with our own worldview and narratives. You simply can’t add content to a glass that is already full.

The Dread Dormmamu

The true villain of the piece.
The true villain of the piece. | Source

The Ttrue Message of Dr. Strange

And this, this is the true message of Dr. Strange. It is a love letter from Stan and Jack about what is possible and even probable if we simply allow it to be so. This writer has been assured that “Anything is possible” (and no, not just by our mom, thanks for asking). Stories from our youth (especially ones told to us by Stan, Steve, Jack Kirby and their compatriots) helped instill those values into us, this film carries on that tradition for a new generation.

“It's Not About You.”

The Ancient One: Arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all.

Dr. Stephen Strange: Which is?

The Ancient One: It's not about you.

The Fun Stuff

Now, for the fun stuff. The film is chock-a-block full of visual references to the comics (Dr. Strange’s Greenwich Village Sanctum Santorum), Wong using the Wand of Watoomb, Mordor sporting the Vaulting Boots of Valtorr, the (albit brief) appearance of Master Daniel Drumm (brother of Jericho, Marvel’s Voodoo Doc, “Brother Voodoo), an appearance of the Mindless Ones, a reference to the Infinity Stones (from the Avengers films), The Crimson Bands of Cyttorak, The Book of The Vishanti, and about a dozen more, as well as several visual references to Doc’s NYC digs. Plus — as you could probably already guess — Stan shows up (reading Aldous Huxley’s Doors of Perception no less), plus there are two (yes two) post credit trailers. One that occurs after the main titles scroll (setting up the next Thor film), and the second one at the very tail end of all of the credits (setting up the next Dr. Strange film).

Strange and Morto

A pair of magicians in NYC
A pair of magicians in NYC | Source

The Final Analysis

So yeah, go check the film out while it is still in the theaters, then pick it up on Blu-ray when it is released, because we’re totally sure there will be even more wicked-cool bells and whistles in that package. Personally, we can hardly wait.

Strange & the Ancient One

Teacher and Student
Teacher and Student | Source

© 2016 Robert J Sodaro


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