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Dr. Strange Brings Magic to Marvel Cinematic Universe

By VERONICA GRAY

Marvel Studios blew apart their Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) earlier this year with Captain America: Civil War. Last weekend, they released their next installment into their universe by taking moviegoers into the magic realm of Doctor Strange.

Dr. Stephen Strange is an extremely successful brain surgeon with the ego to match, who loses all this in a distracted driving car wreck. Dr. Strange’s hands are the most horrific injury, as he is now unable to perform surgery with steady precision needed for his line of work. Even after spending all of his fortune to repair them with seven surgeries, his hands are never the same. Then he comes across a miracle.

A paralyzed man whom Dr. Strange had turned away because his condition was incurable is walking again. When Dr. Strange confronts the man, he is directed to a group of people in Nepal that could cure him. Upon finding the Ancient One, Dr. Strange also discovers a whole other world of possibilities, including the realm of magic. One of the characters, Wong, says it best of what these sorcerers do for the world: “The Avengers protect the world from physical dangers. We safeguard it against more mystical threats.”

This is exactly where Dr. Strange lands as he begins to learn to use magic himself. Kaecilius, a sorcerer who was once the student of the Ancient One, is attempting to break the barrier between earth and the Dark Realm. The only thing standing in Kaecilius’ way are three guardian posts the sorcerers use to safeguard Earth from the Dark Realm and its master.

Dr. Strange is stunning in every way, even if it isn’t seen in IMAX 3-D. The CGI behind all of the magic used by the sorcerers, the mind bending scenes viewers get a taste of in the trailers, are all perfected to wow the audience. Not only do you get to see buildings change shape, come apart, and bend in ways that go against every law of physics, but the magic is visually stunning as well. The spells don’t look like they’re CGI, both because the actors are so convincing in their delivery and because of how natural magic seems to flow throughout the movie.

Aside from special effects, Dr. Strange’s magic lies with its performances. Actors like Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange), Benedict Wong (Wong) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Mordo) bring both loveable and redeemable characters to life on screen.

The movie did catch some heat for whitewashing before its premiere. Fans argued an Asian actor  should have been cast as the Ancient One instead of Tilda Swinton to better line up with the comic book storyline and the movie’s setting. According to Variety, the casting choice was defended by the movie’s director and writer, but it is still seen as a poor choice due to her ethnicity.  Even with this in mind, Swinton did well in her role and gave her character just the right amount of wisdom and mystery, while also keeping the Ancient One grounded.

Those not familiar with the entire Marvel Universe may enjoy Dr. Strange for his charming similarity to Tony Stark/Iron Man. Dr. Strange had to deal with his pride before reaching his end goal, but unlike Stark he only wants to get back what he had. This is a hero who doesn’t want redemption from the start, and sees the world in more shades of gray than most. This is different in comparison to the other Marvel heroes, and actually refreshing when you consider the big picture of the MCU.

What felt a bit lacking was some background on two of the movie’s big characters, Dr. Strange and Mordo. Viewers are given a hint as to Mordo’s background here and there throughout the movie with the suggestion that he had some major struggles in the past, but otherwise they are left unsatisfied with who this man is. In the comics, it is actually Mordo that is the rogue sorcerer and has a previous connection with Dr. Strange we don’t get to see in the film.

Turning Mordo into a character who sees the world in black and white to contrast Dr. Strange’s gray view is an interesting twist. Mordo will be in future movies and it will be interesting to see where the MCU takes this character.

As for Dr. Strange, all we know about is his excellent career as a neurosurgeon and a past fling with Dr. Christine Palmer. In the comics, readers know exactly why Dr. Strange is the way he is, his reason for becoming a doctor, why he’s not interested in anything but his career. Not giving this bit of dimension to the characters made it feel a little bit shallow in getting to know the new superhero and his mystic friends, but they are still enjoyable.

While this movie doesn’t seem to be really affected by the events of Civil War, the characters of Dr. Stephen Strange, Mordo, and others have taken their place in the MCU to bring in a whole new world of possibilities as they make their way towards the future battle of Infinity Wars. In fact, a very large piece to the MCU puzzle is revealed in this movie. The two end credit scenes are also a great reason to see the movie, though one a bit more important than the other.

Veronica Gray can be reached at veronica.gray@spartans.ut.edu

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