So I caught Marvel Studios Doctor Strange in cinemas today. What a load of CGI to begin with. Generally, it was pretty decent, with the sort of quality expected from Marvel movies, if you’re a fan you’d know that another of the 6 Infinity gems was also part of the movie and post credits scene feature none other than Thor. I enjoyed the experience mostly because it brought together certain pertinent themes – time, human nature, and the question of evil against good (if you can even draw such a binary after watching the film), and also the public good versus the private sphere. Just felt like I needed to comment on the film after watching it.
Short summary: Cumberbatch is a doctor – DOCTOR Strange (he refuses to be called anything else, ‘Not Mister, DOCTOR Strange’) who loses his hands in a car accident and does everything to get back the use of them only to find out that they are all useless. He goes into the dumps until he goes East to find for a treatment and ends up in this place called Kamar-Taj where he gets at first thrown out by the Ancient One because he’s a sciency arrogant dude who cannot get the mystic of faith. Later she takes him back and he becomes not just a very bright student but he ends up discovering way more than he should – for someone as new to the arts as he is. He ends up aiding in the battle to protect the 3 Sanctums which shield the world against other forces and comes into possible conflict with one of his trainers, Master Mordo and another villain like character – Kaecilius, all three being former students to the Ancient One.
Now to the comments: it’s very long, you’ve been warned.
Time is relative. At least that’s what the movie tells you, it puts time as something controllable by terrestrial and extra-terrestrial beings – introducing ideas of time reversal, distinctly different and hierarchical dimensions of time with links to space, reflection and the past. The idea of time is played with so much in the movie that you have to pause and think for a bit before coming to terms with what you just saw. The ability for one to reverse time and redo certain things, make things right or in a way change one’s actions is also dealt with in the movie. The past certainly comes back to haunt the present as characters deal with issues of their past causing them to seek for a higher power which elevates them into a different dimension which allows them to control who they are and what they can do for themselves and for the world (if they wish to). It also defies the logic of eternity, as at one point it seems that Strange can control time with the Eye, hinting to a powerful force that is able to bend humans and other forces into submission, with the infinite time loop. The reflective goodbye speech of the Ancient one causes one to wonder how human beings can go through the mad pace of life each day without pausing to consider the beauty of it thereof.
Everyone has a story to tell. Human nature is a very interesting issue. You don’t see a clear binary between the good hero and the evil villain anymore. In this case it is different from normal ‘avengers’ movies because it seems as though each character’s different sides are portrayed in a way that doesn’t create them as one dimensional. Even characters with smaller roles have this too. Pangborn was selfish, but so was Strange. Why then was the former punished by Mordo but not the latter? The issue brought to the fore is that – all men for themselves – and really all men do seek for their own good. Be it the Ancient One, or Strange. They may claim to seek the good of the world – to protect the sanctums – but in the end they all seek that one goal of immortality. The line between good and evil is blurred and this makes the film so much more human and relatable, it associates viewers with the struggles characters face in attempting to decide whether they would choose to use the power they get for themselves or not.
I really loved the portrayal of Strange as desperate, pleading and just pathetic, when he realised his hands would not function anymore. It really begs the question of how far would you go to fulfil your utmost dream, and he wanted his hands back because work was his life. Most people went to the Ancient One for healing and some became detractors like Kaecilius. Some people may identify with Kaecilius, doing some research on his character’s history – like Strange he came to the Ancient One in hope that he would reunite with the wife and child he lost. He got disillusioned that the Ancient One was not showing him what everything and was hiding something so he went off on his own to find a way to break down all the dimensions and merge them – to make the world a simpler place perhaps, and to get to where he wanted to get to. In that sense he doesn’t seem like a terrible character, like every other one, he had a past. So he’s not your typical bad guy and leaves many questions unanswered.
Then there’s Mordo – who’s set up as the villain. He’s a very different villain. He doesn’t spit fire or throw stuff at people, as perhaps typical villains do, visually he barely looks the part. But perhaps he’s the dark mysterious one. The question I asked at the end of the film was, is he now gonna be part of the Dark dimension? The question I should have asked – is he already part of it? But he doesn’t agree with Strange, or the Ancient One. He upholds the Laws of Nature and goes according to how he thinks the cosmos is supposed to run. He frowns on Strange’s time bending acts – even if it is clearly for the greater good. He shows a lot more control than expected for a villain and that’s very interesting. He’s also a strange (hehe) villain because he shows much depth and empathy both in educating Strange in the laws of magic as well as care for the innocent civilians. His morality seems to show strongly and it is thus hard for me to call him a villain. At first I thought he was merely a control character in the Strange-Kaecilius battle but slowly I began to realise it would be exactly his character that would be in opposition to Strange’s. Not much is mentioned in this film in my opinion, but I await with bated breath for the next movie!
Having said all that, this film does not deny one of the enjoyment of pure Marvel styled battles and portals opening and closing… it’s funny how they have to teach Strange to open portals, that part was like – science vs faith. Science in that Strange’s a doctor and he thinks these magic stuff are all bullcrap until he’s thrown out of his body by the Ancient One (wew that slow-mo scene and all that dazzle of lights and galaxy sparkle though) versus faith and ‘surrender’ of his ego – and all his preconceived knowledge, to be able to work magic.
There’s a lot of funny in the movie too – Rachel McAdams confused looks throughout the movie make me crack up, plus Cumberbatch’s silly dissing comments do well to keep the viewer highly entertained, at least at the start before the movie starts accelerating to more intense issues.
Okay I feel like I’m writing another essay so this has got to stop somewhere because I could really go on further about this character breakdown and stuff. This was fun to write.
picture credits here (it’s a nice wallpaper tbh)