This is part of a series of blog posts, discussing my rewatch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe FOLLOWING my viewing Avengers: Endgame on opening weekend. If you HAVE NOT seen Endgame, I suggest you wait to read these posts as I will be mentioning and referencing plot points from the most recent film(s) including Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame.
14. Doctor Strange (2016)
“Who are you, in this vast multi-verse, Mr. Strange?” - The Ancient One
The casting of Benedict Cumberbatch was its own giant moment for the MCU. Robert Downey Jr. was a big movie star, but he was also the rehab kid when he was cast as Iron Man. Getting him to sign a long-term multi-picture deal was absolutely as much a coup for him as for Disney, maybe more at the time. Hemsworth was largely unknown in the United States, Evans wasn’t a household name. Samuel L. Jackson was probably the biggest name that had signed a long-term deal prior to Cumberbatch.
But landing a name of his caliber (who already had his pick of Hollywood projects) for such a franchise cornerstone was really an acknowledgment that Marvel had arrived. The MCU is now its own momentum. If you’re a star who wants to ensuree your relevancy for the next decade or so, Marvel is about as safe a bet as you can make as a star. The modern example of this is Dwayne The Rock Johnson posting congrats to his Instagram feed and reminding Kevin Feige that they need to get together and do lunch. Johnson has his own franchise with The Fast and the Furious, he’s signed on to join the DCEU eventually as Black Adam (Shazam’s arch-nemesis), but still, he wants a piece of the MCU. And OF COURSE he does. Endgame is going to be the biggest movie of all time eventually, and the top 20 on that list is FULL of MCU films. Black Panther and Captain Marvel both debuted over a $1 billion. Who WOULDN’T want to be on this team?
Sadly, the only place this film DOESN’T hold up is in the villain department. Marvel had hit a series of solid bad guys, but Kaecillius played by Mads Mikkelson is only slightly better than Malekith or Ronan. This seems clear enough, but it is definitely time to introduce more recurring villains like Norman Osborn and Doctor Doom to this world. There are MANY examples, but those are two of the best we’ve yet to meet in the MCU. We need to build ongoing storylines and connections to the villains in a similar way that we do for the heroes. That’s the only way to build bad guys that stand up to the heroes we’ve been given in the MCU. Doctor Strange, of course, offers one possibility in a sequel through the character of Mordo, revealed in the post-credit scene to be on a mission to steal sorcerer's powers.
The rumors have a possible Namor appearance as the primary villain in this or Black Panther 2, Namor is another good example of a character we’d care about but would likely often if not always play the role of antagonist. Loki is the template that should be easy enough to follow and Namor has MANY opportunities to play along those same lines. Sauve, charismatic, noble even in his own way (and of course good looking, Namor should be a stunner, whoever they cast), but also always out for his own (and his people’s) benefit even when it means the downfall of others.
Doctor Doom has a wonderful history with Strange in the comics and I’d be THRILLED to see some of that play out in the future onscreen, but we’ll likely get Doom’s introduction alongside his Fantastic Four counterparts. All of that is more likely for Black Panther than Doctor Strange. Strange and Bruce Banner have worked together many times in the comics (even being founding members of The Defenders team on the page), and we know that Marvel needs to put the Hulk in other people’s movies to avoid their contract issues with Universal, I’d be ecstatic to get a comic-accurate Defenders team-up in Doctor Strange as well. Honestly, it’s only because of the timing of the Infinity War storyline that we haven’t gotten a sequel already, and I would be very surprised if it wasn’t one of the first ones in the next batch of Marvel movies.
The most amazing thing about Doctor Strange is the visuals. I remember very well reading Doctor Strange, some Silver Surfer and the original Infinity Gauntlet saga and getting my first glimpses into metaphysical theories or philosophy, the idea of a cosmos period. These comics literally opened my mind, no drugs necessary. The fact that we've now had many of those images transposed to cinema in so direct an adaptation is remarkable. Scott Derickson is absolutely to be commended but so is Marvel for letting this film and franchise be a little "weird".