For a long time, I just viewed Doctor Strange as a soft reboot of the original Iron Man movie. I mean, they follow very similar story beats utilising very similar character archetypes. But upon rewatching it for the purposes of this post, I was actually really shocked at how much the movie expands on the established lore of the MCU and the implications is has going forward.
Magic has been a contentious subject in the MCU before now, the closest the franchise has gotten to having it has been with Thor. But even in those two movies, their “magic” is always treated like some kind of higher science that us mortals simply can’t comprehend. And in all honesty, this approach makes both of the standalone Thor movies a lot weaker as a result. They seem to holding themselves back.
Sod it, let’s go crazy
That was something they couldn’t do when anymore when it came to this movie. Doctor Strange is the sorcerer supreme, this was the movie Marvel needed to establish magic within the MCU and allow it stick. And unlike Thor, where there seems to be this desire to have some kind of rules to their “magic”, Doctor Strange decides to say hell with it and just go crazy.
The very beginning of the movie shows us a sorcerer’s battle, one that warps reality and twists the mind. The inspirations from Inception are plain for all to see in the twisting skyscrapers and impossible staircase visuals on display right from the word go. Because the movie goes so big so fast, it seems like its letting the audience know that “there’s no explaining this, so just go with it.”
From here, we jump to Stephen Strange, and get his very generic origin story. Strange, like Tony Stark, is a genius, he’s arrogant and he’s very wealthy. Thanks to an accident of his own doing, he finds himself losing everything and getting a big dose of humility along the way. After Strange arrives in Kamar-Taj and starts opening his mind to the world of magic, the movie takes a turn away from a simple Iron Man clone, its strange how that’s been the the thing that’s stuck in my mind all this time since then.
A Multiverse of Opportunity
Once things start to get suitably trippy and magical, the movie starts to hold its own as a new and unique page within the MCU. Which brings me to question whether this needed to be a true origin story or not. Strange becomes too powerful, too quickly for my liking. But at this point, the MCU is driving forward like a freight train and I don’t really see how slowing Strange’s progression down could do anything but hold back the greater story being told in the MCU, especially considering his impact on Infinity War.
Doctor Strange is a very important character within the Marvel Universe, so getting him up to speed and involved in events of the MCU as quickly as possible was vital. And while Strange’s inclusion within the movies as a character is hugely important, this movie and what it establishes has much grander ramifications for the MCU’s future beyond even what we’ve seen as I’m writing this.
The announced direct sequel to this very movie: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness tips the hat of the point I’m trying to make. The events of that movie, of WandaVision and what we saw in Endgame’s time travel sequences show that with the establishment of the MCU’s very own multiverse, nothing is off the table for the future of the franchise when it comes to bringing back characters from the dead, recasting actors or maybe even rebooting the whole damned thing.
The Next Thanos?
With the establishment of parallel dimensions building to the MCU becoming even more “comic booky” going forward, there’s something else in here that nobody else seems to talk about. At the time of this movie’s release in 2016, I am convinced that its introduction of Dormammu was to set him up as the next major, multi-Avengers spanning villain to follow Thanos.
Given, this was several years before Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox and thus their re acquisition the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and villains like Galactus. Since then, I’m sure the long term plans for the MCU have changed dramatically since 2016 when Doctor Strange came out. Even if Dormammu doesn’t becoming the next major villain for the collective MCU, his presence invites not only his return in a future movie, but the potential for other mystical villains: Mephisto, Blackheart and maybe whatever the hell the MCU decides to do with Ghost Rider.
Between this movie and the previous one, the MCU has gone through some seriously major changes that pave the way going forward. I haven’t spoken about this movie on it’s own all that much, but it’s a solid entry into the MCU, I especially appreciate the fact that Strange defeats the major enemy by outsmarting him and showing an act of self sacrifice while also stroking his ego a little.
I don’t think the origin aspect of the movie is especially strong, but everything else from a visual and conceptual standpoint is great. Strange does feel like the finished article come the movies end, even if it seems like he skips a few steps to get there. Watching this movie, more than any other I’ve watched so far in this rewatch series has made me excited to see where the MCU will continue to grow going forward.
Doctor Strange is going to be one of the major players in the series going forward if Marvel want to continue to get weird and cross dimensional going forward, at least until Reed Richards finally gets introduced.