MCU Moments: Doctor Strange
Avengers: Endgame cannot seem to get here fast enough, but we are passing the time by taking a look at the many origin stories in the MCU. So far we have reviewed The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Ant-Man, which now leads us to our first experience with the mystic arts. Released in November of 2016, Doctor Strange was directed by Scott Derrickson and written by Derrickson, Jon Spaihts, and C. Robert Cargill. The film debuted Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange and Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. The film’s cast also introduced Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Benjamin Bratt to the Marvel universe. The film went on to earn over $677 million worldwide, and Strange’s story is expected to continue with a sequel in Marvel’s phase 4 of releases.
So, what moments stand out in this origin to the mystic arts?
1) Not A Gift Shop
I completely understand the complaints the film received about the casting of Tilda Swinton for the Ancient One in light of this character’s portrayal in the comic books, but Swinton does have an ethereal quality that makes this sequence particularly good. It’s a sublime confrontation between she and Strange as he quickly begins to doubt her methods with every picture of a chakra or MRI. His belief that only the physical world exists is about to be severely challenged, and this whole dynamic makes this a memorable moment. The Ancient One drops a lot of insight and wisdom into the conversation, immediately recognizing Strange for the selfish, short-sighted man that he is. From there, it only gets more fun as Strange and the audience is introduced to the many trippy and crazy visuals of multiple universes. This whole sequence is a whirlwind of color and intense imagery, and it is perfect.
It culminates with the Ancient One reminding him just how much he doesn’t know and that he has certainly never seen these things before in a gift shop. She also then kicks him out and slams a door in his face, so let’s call this one of the most memorable and important sequences in the story.
2) Strange Meets Kaecilius
Kaecilius is established from the beginning as someone to not cross paths with, and this first meeting between he and Strange is enticing. It starts on a funny note with Kaecilius misunderstanding his name, and even the beginning of this encounter continues to contain humor as characters run across ceilings and walls. Strange quickly manages to get rid of his flunkies and fight the master one on one. This battle becomes all the more entertaining as the Cloak of Levitation saves Strange and pulls him to and fro in his efforts to beat Kaecilius.
You also get here that awesome shot of Strange floating upward in front of the window of the sanctum and the reveal that the Ancient One is drawing power from Dormammu. All in all, a great sequence.
3) A Different Kind of Battle
You know, you really do have to give credit to Marvel sometimes. It’s not every day that we get a battle between two people in their astral forms, yet here we are. Strange and one of Kaecilius’ men battle above Strange’s body in a hospital room, and the stakes of this fight are somehow tinged with humor. Strange terrifies Christine when he appears in this form and later when he regains consciousness. It’s also quite entertaining to see things move around the room and be knocked over despite nothing visibly happening in our dimension. Rachel McAdams makes this scene worthwhile with her very normal reactions to the incredibly abnormal things occurring around her.
4) Mirror Dimension & The Ancient One
I often consider Doctor Strange to be one of the more unique entries in the MCU, and this battle in the mirror dimension only emphasizes that belief all the more. It’s both beautiful and unnerving to watch as matter is manipulated and New York folds into itself. The visuals and context of the sequence come together for one more showdown between the Ancient One and Kaecilius, and this fight comes with a huge cost. As much as I love the battle, the ensuing scenes are literally my favorite moments of the entire film. The conversation between Strange and the Ancient One as she dies is both beautiful and solemn. It is her last chance to admit her faults while reminding Stephen of who he is and what he can accomplish. She challenges him one last time to not live for himself but abandon the fear and arrogance that consistently hold him back to serve something greater than himself.
This sequence full of action ends in a subdued scene that is pivotal for the characters, and I think it’s part of what makes the film itself memorable.
So, what moments stand out for you from Doctor Strange? Where does it rank among the MCU origins for you?
Be sure to let us know in the comments, and catch up with us next week as we continue with another origin story in our countdown to Avengers: Endgame.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.