With few exceptions (Thor) one of the enduring lessons of the Marvel lesson is the power of our own inner strength, and above all, intelligence. Even the Hulk is the product of the incredible work of Bruce Banner. Yes, Tony Stark had a leg up with the whole son of a successful businessman, but he’s pretty stinkin’ smart in his own right.
In the latest Marvel tale, “Doctor Strange” we open with a man who is not a superhero, but a super surgeon.
Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is one of the greatest surgical minds in the world, and he knows it. When tragedy befalls him, and his ego alienates his few allies—namely his colleague Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams)—he descends into an apparent wild goose chase to heal himself.
In search of what he believes to be a place of healing (Kamar-Taj), Strange is found by Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who brings him to the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). Expecting eastern medicine, he instead gets a swift dose of humility paired with a lesson in the multiverse theory. It’s seriously trippy to say the least.
Here’s where Strange’s true super power is revealed—he’s a super student.
Under the tutelage of the Ancient One (TAO) and Mordo, he quickly learns how to channel energy, bend space (and eventually time), and earn the respect of his teachers (including Wong the librarian who is amazing). Oh an did I mention his gift for astral projection?
Of course, all of this perfectly zen connection with the universe is being threatened by a former pupil (Mads Mikkelsen) of TAO who would like to live forever, just like his teacher.
This timey-wimey trip includes the usual wit of the Marvel-verse, with perhaps a little bit less snark, but equally smart.
To the surprise of no one, Benedict Cumberbatch is quite brilliant as this humbled-ego of a superhero, and Tilda Swinton is perfection as TAO. She has a particularly beautiful monologue towards the end of the film which may or may not have made me weep.
But above all, the effects in this movie continue a tradition started by “Thor” and carried on by “Guardians of the Galaxy,” of making extraordinary (truly out of this world) locations mesh well with the real world settings with which they collide. Seriously, we all know Thor’s “rainbow bridge” could have been really weird.
Marvel’s gift for weaving an ever-growing web of stories seamlessly continues with “Doctor Strange” and of course hints at what’s to come (“Captain Marvel” anyone?), which I think we can safely assume will be just as incredible.