Right since the successful release of ‘Iron Man’ (2008), the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) has gone on to make some terrific films year after year. Over the years, we’ve grown up watching the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye entertaining us with by forming a team called the Avengers and battling against the bad guys to save our Earth from world-ending consequences. Then the MCU stepped their game further with movies like the Captain America sequels, ‘Ant-Man’ (2015) and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ (2014), films which truly elevated the franchise and kept both fans and critics entertained and wanting for more.
Most comic book fans know this that Doctor Strange is not only one of the most unusual characters in the Marvel Comics, but also he’s also the most powerful sorcerer on Earth. His story arc includes themes of magic and mystic arts, something all the Marvel fans were hoping to see made into a movie. It was only in 2014 that we got to know that a Doctor Strange film was in its developmental stage and that according to Feige, Doctor Strange was in the MCU’s plans for “Phase Three”. All this got us to thinking: Who would portray the titular character?
Many comic book fans and even the media had championed for Benedict Cumberbatch to play the main protagonist. By then, Benedict was already fan favourite having done some impressive work in the TV series ‘Sherlock’, played Star Trek’s most popular villain Khan in ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’ (2013) and also had two Oscar nominations to his name. The MCU decided that Cumberbatch was perfect for the role and finally in April 2016, the trailer arrived which got us even more excited for its release.
The movie certainly pleased all the comic book fans, viewers and critics alike. The biggest selling point of the movie was probably the visual effects which were just out of this world, and it was a delight to watch the film in both 3-D and IMAX. The movie is also surprisingly quite funny, and that is mainly due to Cumberbatch’s performance as Doctor Strange who oozes us all with his charm. His character is actually quite fleshed-out and very engaging. The film also benefits from some excellent writing as the film tries to build an intriguing world full of magic and spells. Overall, it’s a solid movie, and MCU ensured that they delivered once again. Anyways, enough talk about all that! Let’s get to the plot of the movie:
The first scene of the movie takes us to a seemingly old, gothic like library where a sorcerer named Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) and his followers behead the librarian before Kaecilius finds an ancient mythical chained book and tears some pages which belongs to the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), a sorcerer who doesn’t age. The Ancient One chases after Kaecilius who bends, folds and reshapes streets and buildings of the city to make kaleidoscopic images (Inception, anyone). Though The Ancient One is a formidable magical fighter, she’s unable to capture Kaecilius who escapes.
Steven Strange and his tragic accident:
We’re introduced next to Dr Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a brilliant, wealthy and arrogant-minded neurosurgeon who has built a reputation in New York City for being very calm and confident while performing highly delicate surgeries. He is accompanied by Dr Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), a nurse and with whom Dr Strange has had an on-off relationship. Later in the evening when Strange goes for an event while driving in a Lamborghini quite recklessly, he crashes his car into the river as a result of which his hands gets slammed into the dashboard. Though he is airlifted and treated in the hospital, he wakes up and is horrified on finding out that his hands are immobilized in a framework of pins and wires and that they have to be rebuilt. Though he slowly recovers from further surgeries, his hands still remain weak and shaky which renders him unable to operate as a neurosurgeon.
Palmer tries to help him move on, but Strange vainly pursues experimental surgeries to heal his hands which renders him almost bankrupt. Realizing that he has no other options, Strange then hears about a man called Jonathan Pangborn who miraculously recovered from a half-body paralysis. On visiting him, Pangborn tells Strange that he got cured in a place called Kamar Taj in Nepal.
With great financial difficulty, Strange somehow makes his way to Nepal, wandering the streets of Kathmandu in search of Kamar Taj. He is noticed and followed by Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who saves him from some muggers and takes him to Kamar Taj where he is introduced to the Ancient One. She claims that she knows all about him. Strange is at first perplexed and wonders as to how they would cure his hands and doesn’t believe her when she talks about healing him through means of the mystic arts. Noticing that Strange is unconvinced, she introduces him to an alternate reality where many different universes and dimensions can be harnessed for power and mystical guidance through the astral plane. At first, she refuses to teach Strange as his arrogance and inflated ego remind him of her student Kaecilius but then agrees to take him as her student.
Over the following weeks, Strange learns how to open gates to jump across the world, under the guidance of both the Ancient One and Mordo. Strange also studies from the ancient books and becomes very proficient in reading and memorizing ancient texts and mantras. He learns from Wong (Benedict Wong), the librarian that Kamar Taj i.e., the temple operates as a secret group whose objective is to save the world from enemies in other dimensions and universes. He also comes to know that the Earth is protected to these threats by a shield generated from three buildings i.e, Sanctums each residing in the following three cities: New York City, London and Hong Kong which are all connected and is accessible from Kamar Taj. The sorcerers are tasked with protecting the three Sanctums though Pangborn chose instead to channel mystical energy into only walking again. While training, Mordo tells Strange that Kaecilius, a former student of Kamar Taj has stolen a spell from a book and has escaped with his three zealots.
Thirsty for more knowledge, Strange starts borrowing more books from the library and despite Wong’s warnings of not to read the books expressly reserved for the Ancient One, he steals them and learns about astral projections. One night, he, with the help of the Eye of Agamotto, accidentally comes across a spell meant for bending time: a time-shifting pendant. This finding leads him to discover the missing pages which Kaecilius stole before Wong and Mordo intervene and warn him that it’s forbidden to use time spells which is a law against nature as it involves creating time loops such that one can be stuck in those loops forever and could let evil forces into the universe. Wong delves more into Dormammu, that he is pure evil and hell-bent on conquering all worlds and that he has always desired to conquer Earth.
Kaecilius manages to figure out the stolen spell and proceeds to attack the London Sanctum with his zealots before Strange, Mordo and Wong intervene. We’re introduced to Sanctums which is a building with a logo window and that one can access the other Sanctums directly from there. Kaecilius manages to destroy the London Sanctum before he and his zealots proceed to go the New York Sanctum to do the same where Strange shows up, and we witness a fight, i.e., struggle as we get to see Strange developing his fighting skills. He manages to get rid of two of the zealots using a gateway which deserts them in some inhabited environment. A burgundy cloak, a relic of the Sanctum helps him to subdue the third zealot and then wraps around itself around Strange. With the help of an antique binding rack, Kaecilius gets restrained.
Kaecilius explains why he’s destroying the Sanctums. Like Strange, he too came to Kamar Taj to heal and was offered to stay and learn the mystic arts but got disillusioned with the Ancient One because he had a suspicion that she wasn’t exposing him to all of the mystic arts. Kaecilius manages to figure out that the only reason the Ancient One has lived for centuries is due to the fact that she draws power from the Dark Dimension. Kaecilius wanted the stolen pages so as to contact Dormammu of the Dark Dimension, where time is virtually non-existent as Kaecilius firmly believes that time is an insult and that he longs to live for all eternity. One Strange realizes that he’s forgot to put on his ring, the third zealot stabs him. Strange, mortally wounded manages to open a gate to his old hospital and meets Christine. Panic-stricken by Strange’s wound, Christine drags him to the operating table where she hooks him to a heart monitor and performs an emergency procedure which involves draining out his excess blood from around his heart. Meanwhile, Strange uses his astral projection to fight the zealot and kill him with the help of Christine, who shocks him with a defibrillator.
On returning to the Sanctum, he finds out that Kaecilius has escaped. He is rejoined with Mordo and the Ancient One who suggests that he should guard the New York Sanctum as they are very impressed with the fact that the magical cape, i.e., The Cloak of Levitation chose him. Strange angrily retorts that he wants no part of this responsibility given the fact he almost died and reveals to Mordo that the Ancient One draws power from the Dark Dimension in order to live for so long. They are intervened by Kaecilius, but this time he comes with more of his zealots. Strange creates a Mirror Dimension to contain the fight which now spills on the streets.
Just like how in the opening scene we saw Kaecilius fighting the Ancient One by shape-shifting the city and manages to wound her mortally, Strange rushes her into the hospital with the help of Christine, but to no avail, she doesn’t make it. Strange follows the Ancient One’s spirit in his astral form. The Ancient One admits to him that he too will have to bend the rules to complement Mordo’s steadfast nature to defeat Kaecilius. She accepts the fact that this is the end for her and that it is up to Strange to prevent Dormammu from taking over Earth.
Rejoined with Mordo, they realize that Kaecilius intends to destroy the Hong Kong Sanctum so as to let Dormammu in. On reaching there, they find Wong dead, the Sanctum destroyed, and the Dark Dimension engulfing Earth. Strange uses the Eye of Agamotto to reverse time and save Wong before Kaecilius manages to stun Strange thereby stopping the time-reversing process. Strange then decides to confront Dormammu directly by flying directly into the heart of the Dark Dimension and creates an infinite time loop around himself and the Dark Dimension. No matter every time Strange’s request to bargain is turned down by Dormammu and gets killed in a variety of ways, time keeps getting reset to back when Strange approaches him. Furious but left trapped in a time loop with Strange, he gives in to Strange’s demand. Back on the street, Strange sends Kaecilius and his zealots into the Dark Dimension just before it vanishes.
Disillusioned with the fact that Strange defied nature’s law by using that time pendant as he believes that using such powers was considered forbidden, as established by the Ancient One before he realizes that she too had done the same, Mordo departs from Kamar Taj. Strange returns the Eye of Agamotto to Kamar Taj and returns to New York to reside in the Sanctum and continue his studies.
Post Credit Scenes:
We are the introduced to two very vital post-credit scenes which are essential for viewing (it’s MCU, duh!). Firstly, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) shows up at the New York Sanctum to ask help from Strange for searching his father Odin who he believes is residing in Earth in exchange for ridding Earth from Loki, Thor’s adopted brother. (I won’t say any more as this is spoiler territory so go see ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ (2017)).
In the second post-credits scene, Mordo shows up at Pangborn’s residence and snatches from him the mythical energy that had healed Pangborn’s back before walking away declaring that “Earth has too many sorcerers”.
So what do the Ending and Post-Credits Scene Mean?
Yes, by now you might have guessed it: the Eye of Agamatto is no ordinary time pendant, i.e., it’s an Infinity Stone. It’s also known as the “Time Stone” and is part of the six Infinity Stones. Also, what is up Mordo at the end? Mordo manages to hunt down Pangborn and recalls how Pangborn was brought to Kamar Taj on a stretcher and was paralyzed and that he could walk now. You can tell Mordo is not happy from the looks on his face as he tells Pangborn that it’s not right to steal things and that “power has a purpose” and that he used magic only for his selfish reasons which explains why he stole the magic from Pangborn, thereby leaving him crippled. Mordo then gives us the hint that he’s on a mission to wipe out all the Sorcerer Supremes who exist, which is not good news for Doctor Strange. Yup, we least expected Mordo of all the people to turn b
Mordo felt betrayed by the Ancient One, and yes we won’t be seeing him for the last time. For those who have read the comics and particularly with the very first issue of the Doctor Strange comics, Baron Mordo has been one of Strange’s greatest enemies. So it makes sense as in the beginning, we see Mordo as a mentor figure for Strange but later turns to the dark side which adds a bit of depth and explanation to his character motivations. In the comics, Mordo held a grudge on Strange as the latter was always destined to become the Ancient One’s successor.
So who knows, Mordo may be pitted against Doctor Strange as the villain in the Doctor Strange sequel. We really have no clue what will happen in the sequel as currently (Spoiler Alert: Doctor Strange has been reduced to ashes). Yes, Doctor Strange will be revived but how we don’t know that yet. Half of life in the universe has been reduced to ashes so it will be up to the remaining Avengers to revive the ones who are now dead. Director Scott Derrickson has expressed an interest in featuring Nightmare and Clea in the sequel. Filming for the sequel has yet to begin so we’re going to have to wait a while before we can even get a glimpse of the sequel.