The Marvel Cinematic Universe: Doctor Strange (2016)

| April 19, 2019

For better or worse, a generation is now growing up with the movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and whatever that says about the direction of Western Civilization will be left to history depending largely on who writes it.  Avengers: Endgame brings the hammer down on this series on April 27th, so for the next few weeks I am going to take a look back at the films that have built a massive phenomenon.  Are they any good?  Let’s take a look . . .

Image result for doctor strange 2016

There are probably at least a thousand ways that Doctor Strange could have gone wrong.  Let’s face it, at its core this not the most original idea in the world – a brilliant man of commonplace terra firma is suddenly thrust into a world of supernatural mysticism that confounds and rearranges all that he has ever known.  The difference here is that the man is played by Benedict Cumberbatch and in the scope of this movie it’s a masterstroke.

Cumberbatch has a special quality.  He is an actor who can pull off smug, self-serious arrogance without pushing you away. It is a fine line that he walks. You know he’s the smartest guy in the room, the guy who stands back while others yammer on with petty concerns until he grows tired of their misconceptions and happily takes them to school. It’s fascinating to watch. Cumberbatch has more or less built his career on this; it’s on display in his best performances in The Imitation Game and “Sherlock” and he uses it with great skill in the new Marvel adventure Doctor Strange and gives it a refreshing twist of grandiose humor.

The difference is that here the weary smugness is placed up against a displacement of his understanding of the natural world and steps into an ancient society in which he is the student and not the master.  Steven Strange is a brilliant surgeon whose world is disrupted by a car accident in which he destroys his hands and, in searching for a cure, he stumbles into a world in which all of the study flesh and bone are basically rendered useless.  But, the brilliant thing here is that even when his perceptions about the natural world are upended, it doesn’t mean that he suddenly becomes stupid.  He just takes all of the tactics that he put into the study of his medical practice and transfers it to a new line of thinking.  That’s a curious and rather unusual manner of approaching this story.

The overarching story?  Doesn’t really matter.  It has to do with a villain who steals some ancient books and intends to open a portal to another dimension so that a super-size mega-gargatuan can come through and destroy the world.  It is hard to care really.  The story’s more interesting element is what it does with the Doctor Strange character.  He’s so interesting that the outer plot hardly matters.  It’s a case of character over plot and, for this series, that’s kind of refreshing.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.