It’s about time that the Marvel Cinematic Universe started to actually embrace the fantastical. Guardians of the Galaxy notwithstanding, the films try to keep some sort of realism grounded in their stories, especially with the Captain America and Iron Man films. I just like magic, and Doctor Strange opens up a lot of cool stuff for its universe.
Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a brilliantly douchey surgeon who can cure any ailment. The man has gotten so arrogant that it even starts to affect his relationship with Doctor Palmer (Rachel McAdams). One day while Strange is driving like an asshole, he gets into an accident and fucks up his hands.
His career as a surgeon is now over. No purpose. No reason.
Now, Strange goes on a journey to the far east to learn from the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) to give his life a purpose to continue, and ultimately defeat her former pupil Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen).
I thought Marvel was done with telling origin stories. Everything aboutthe film is pretty good, but a bit of an old hat by now. The Marvel origin stories all follow the same formula:
- The hero is an asshole
- The hero learns to humble himself
- The hero has someone teach him his abilities or his values
- The villain was a former friend
- The hero rejects his calling
- Just kidding, the hero fulfills his destiny
To be fair, mostof these troupes come from Joseph Conrad, but when you’re getting a couple of these flicks a year, it starts to get stale.
But I was captivated by Cumberbatch’s performance as Strange, and it dawned on me how difficult it is to pull this role off; Robert Downey Jr turned the loveable asshole into a work of art, and Cumberbatch managed to pull it off. I cared about his journey, his transformation from dick to hero was not only plausible, but actually satisfying. Not since Star Lord and his posse did I want to see where a hero goes next.
Yes, Doctor Strange is a redressed origin story we’ve gotten before, but it works. When the humor lands, it truly lands. And with all its frills and special effects, it actually managed to tell an effective human story.