Brief thoughts on Doctor Strange

I’ve never found Doctor Strange a particularly interesting character, but I was keen to see the eponymous movie for the two obvious reasons — Benedict Cumberbatch and the film’s role as part of the MCU.


I am glad I did. I think in terms purely of visuals it’s probably the best film I’ve ever seen: all the Inception-like city folding, all the pure-Kirby Ditko psychedelia. Excellent stuff. (I wonder what Jack Kirby would have made Steve Ditko makes of the other-dimensional scenes had he lived to see them.)

I was a bit thrown by how much Stephen Strange was Gregory House, to the point where I was almost seeing Hugh Laurie’s face. I think that, at a stretch, you could read the whole film as a sort of sequel to House providing a redemption arc (admittedly with a rather striking change of tone).

In the end, though I enjoyed it a lot, Doctor Strange fell a little bit short for me, probably because it was sold as MCU but didn’t really feel like part of that universe. Perhaps that’s just a matter of mis-selling — but then, would I have seen it at all had it not been MCU? Maybe not. The occasional MCU nods, like the passing mention of the Avengers and the casual reveal that the time-control amulet is an infinity stone, felt tacked on.

That said, I did enjoy a moment of continuity early in the film: Strange takes a phone-call from his hospital while driving, to be told of a US Army colonel in his mid thirties with spinal fractures. I felt a little self-congratulatory thrill of recognition as I realised they were referring to James Rhodes, aka. War Machine, who was injured during in Captain America: Civil War. It’s neat when a film makes you feel clever.

All in all: a feast for the eyes, but maybe not quite so much for the brain.

8 responses to “Brief thoughts on Doctor Strange

  1. I meant to see it.. but Doctor ‘Gregory House’ Strange .. -> must see! :)

  2. Actually, the artist who defined Dr. Strange was Steve Ditko, not Jack Kirby.

  3. Sure, it’s Ditko’s character; but you’re not going to tell me that backgrounds like this aren’t pure Kirby?

    I’m talking about stuff like this, this, this and this.

  4. (Hmm… my original post, I see, lost the humorous “comic book guy” fake-HTML tags I put in there to emphasize I’m aware I’m being a pedantic nitpicker…)

    I’m afraid I must tell you that. Both Ditko and Kirby did “cosmic spectacle”, but the unique look of Dr. Strange’s alternate mystical dimensions was Steve, not Jack.

    Here’s an example that seems to be an inspiration for the live-action image you posted. The “curving threads connecting to spheres” design, in particular, is very Ditkoesque.

    (Hopefully, it will actually come through; the days when images were simple to link to are deader than Applesoft BASIC.)

    A GIS on “ditko doctor strange” should show many more examples.

  5. My main objection to the film was the character arc: it felt like the authors intended to show Strange overcoming his self-centered nature, but he did not exactly start very self-centered (damn selfish brain surgeons!), and his “redemption” (to avoid spoilers) act was totally logical and made compete sense even if undertaken by the most narcissistic of characters. There was no need for him to have that arc at all, but they spent so much time making us feel like he was on it (90% of Tilda Swinton’s lines?) that it really stood out.

  6. Well, Lizard, you are evidently right! I will go back and edit the original post accordingly. Thank you for persisting with this.

    Chris, I am not sure I agree on arc. We’d already seen an example of a character who, having got the specific thing he needed from the Kamar-Taj sect, just walked away and went back to his previous life. Strange could have done the same, and I think the version of him we saw earlier in the film would have done — so there was a real change and some personal growth.

  7. I’m not sure he was given a chance to consider that, though. He was under attack too much, spending the second half of the film just avoiding death (or worse). By the time he was given a chance to really consider, at the very end of the film, he had already gained what he actually wanted — a reason to carry on — and no longer had any personal motivation to return to his old life. Yet all the *talk* about his character arc was about how selfish he was, so the resolution of his arc should have involved genuine personal sacrifice. Off the top of my head, that could have been accomplished by (1) damning himself _when he wasn’t already doomed_, (2) giving up the magic he’d spent all that time learning, knowing he’d be useless again, (3) dying. Choosing to remain as one of the most powerful sorcerers on Earth wasn’t exactly a sacrifice.

  8. I don’t think the spinal fracture patient was a nod to Rhodes, unless we are to believe that Rhodes (who by all accounts is purported to be a long time friend of Stark) is in his 30s. I don’t think that’s the case. In any case, Don Cheadle is certainly not in his mid 30s.

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