I managed to catch a showing of Marvel’s new movie Doctor Strange. To give the end of this review away: I liked it. Oh, and before I continue, apologies for all the strange plays on words.
Yes, that’s really his name. Doctor Stephen Vincent Strange, to be exact. He’s one of Marvel’s stranger heroes. Marvel’s universe contains not only hordes of superheroes (people who somehow gained superpowers), mutants (people born with mutations that give them powers), and aliens (go watch Guardians of the Galaxy), but also magic. Doctor Strange is a sorcerer. At least, he becomes one in the story.
Strange hero’s journey
Doctor Strange – played by Benedict Cumberbatch – follows the classic hero’s journey. He starts out as an arrogant brain surgeon. When he has a car accident that cripples his hands, his life changes (the call to adventure). He first looks to modern medicine, but this cannot help him. He finally travels to Kathmandu looking for a mystical solution. There he meets the ancient one – Tilda Swinton. He writes her off as a charlatan and is kicked out of her sanctum (refusal of the call). After sitting at the door for hours, he is finally let back in (literally crossing the threshold) to start his journey into the magical world.
I’ll stop here to not spoil the plot. Suffice it to say, the hero’s journey is neatly followed. That’s not a bad thing. The hero’s journey isn’t a recipe, or a cliché. It’s a way to structure a story. Within that structure it has several fresh elements. There are currently so many superhero movies that adding some magic and Inception-like special effects gives it just that extra twist. Add to that the superb acting of Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton and you get a really good movie.
The Strange Character
I’m currently on a quest to grow at characterization, so let’s look at the protagonist a little more closely. What makes him tick? He starts out as an almost cliché surgeon with a god complex. Almost, because the first scenes show him saving a man’s life by his brilliance, even when there isn’t much for him to gain, after another surgeon has already pronounced the patient dead. It shows he is an arrogant bastard, but he’s also competent, and he wants to help people.
The inciting event for his journey is when his hands are crippled. He makes an arrogant mistake while driving. In other words, his flaw causes him to ruin his life. It causes sympathy and starts his character arc. The rest of the movie flows from there.
And then there’s Mads Mikkelsen, but I’ve already raved about his portrayal of Hannibal a few weeks ago.
All in all, a great cast, and it shows. Actors can take a good story and make it great, and that is what they did here.
Marvel is good at creating movies which are fresh. They’re just a little better than superhero movies from other studios. If you compare it to movies like Green Lantern, a whole lot better even.
Doctor Strange is Marvel at its best. For me it’s up there with Captain America 1, Iron Man 1, and Avengers. I’m looking forward to what is to come.