Is Doctor Strange the Best Origin Story in the MCU?

Is Doctor Strange the Best Origin Story in the MCU?

Guest Blog by Robert Mills, Destrus76's Mind Debris

Doctor Strange is in theaters now, and he is one of the lesser known Marvel characters who is getting his own franchise. This was one of those movies that was more of a gamble (think Ant-Man and Guardians Of The Galaxy). It won the weekend with over $80 million in domestic box office and is already over $300 million worldwide. But, how does the first appearance of The Sorcerer Supreme stack up against the first standalone movies in the MCU?

Doctor Strange Spoiler Warning

SPOILERS for Doctor Strange and the MCU to date Follow

Doctor Strange is the second outing in MCU’s Phase Three. The MCU is very complex at this point, and we have an origin film that reflects the mature and intricate cinematic universe it is set in. The story is much more complex than previous origin stories. This is the first MCU film that beautifully balances more than two villains. The team at Marvel knows that these characters are going to be appearing in other films very soon. They are giving these characters depth and weight that they didn’t attempt earlier in the MCU.

 
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Not ANOTHER Origin Movie!

I’ll admit that I was a little lukewarm on Doctor Strange from the previews. It looked predictable and formulaic. I went into it without very high expectations. The last MCU origin movie, Ant-Man, was a little bit underwhelming. I’m also NOT a big fan of origin stories. They tend to be interchangeable with more of a desire to set up the sequel than to tell their own story.  

Marvel's long line of Origin Story films in the MCU (2008-present)

Marvel's long line of Origin Story films in the MCU (2008-present)

For a variety of reasons, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Ant-Man all had their shortcomings as did more acclaimed films like Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy. Thor was a phase one MCU movie, it was simple and straightforward. Captain America: FA was a fairly bland film and very linear film to setup future greats. Ant-man had a thin plot and a weak villain. Guardians was less origin and more ensemble.

Evolution of the Origin Plot

Doctor Strange breaks the mold of simplistic origin stories. It’s entertaining to watch throughout, with twists and turns and revelations. The characters are more compelling. The motivations are very grey, with little black and white. The nuances of the action behind the scenes leads to more revelations when you watch it more than once.

There’s a lot going on here:

  • Strange, losing everything and learning what his true purpose can be.
  • The conflict between The Ancient One And Kaecilius
  • The conflict between Dormammu and the good Sorcerers
  • Ultimately, the fall of Mordo from loyal Sorcerer to a man who learns his life was a lie and what he must do now. “Too many sorcerers.”
The Ancient One pushes Doctor Strange into his Astral Body

Unlike previous MCU origin movies, Doctor Strange features several complicated characters. Some are outright villains, and some could only be considered villains depending on your point of view. Doctor Strange does a very good job of painting almost all of its secondary characters in shades of gray in order to spin a compelling story.  

The various villains in the other ‘MCU origin films’ have been a mixed bag.

Maturation of the Marvel Villain

Kaecilius - The Betrayer

Where Captain America: First Avenger gave us a one-dimensional bad guy bent on conquering the world, Doctor Strange provides us a broken student Kaecilius turning to a new master he knows too little about.

Kaecilius and the eyes of Dormammu in Doctor Strange

Yes, he steals the pages for the ritual to contact Dormammu.  Even though he is doing the wrong things, you can understand his motivations. The Ancient One has been lying to everybody all along. She has been harnessing the powers of the Dark Dimension in order to have immortality.  She is holding that power to herself and lying to everybody else around her.

You can actually feel for Kaecilius in this movie. He’s been lied to for reasons he doesn't understand. He lost everything and everyone before making his journey to Nepal. He wants to have the same opportunity to heal as everybody else, but he has been betrayed by the people he trusts the most.

 
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Mordo - The Good Soldier

Where Thor gives Loki a spoiled trickster, Doctor Strange offers a student who can not go along with the grey areas a Sorcerer Supreme must swim in to ultimately safeguard our world.

Mordo in Doctor Strange

We’re talking about Mordo.  He is betrayed by everybody.  Like Kaecilius, he is betrayed by The Ancient One. He has an inflexible moral compass. You see him break over the course of the movie. He has killed in the name of the Sorcerers because he believed what they were doing was right. In Hong Kong, Mordo feels betrayed by Stephen for going against the natural order. Even though Stephen did the only thing that he could do in order to save the world, Mordo couldn’t accept Strange’s actions. In the end, he believes the Sorcerers are revealed as a group of liars and weaklings unable or unwilling to do what needs to be done. Where Mordo is complex and in conflict with his chosen path in Doctor Strange, Loki as a character was a brat bent on gaining the power of the throne. .

The Ancient One - The Mentor With Secrets

Where Iron Man gave us a mentor bent only on gaining power, Doctor Strange illuminates our hero with a mentor who gives up what is right to do a little evil so the greater good may see the light of day. The Ancient One is another complex character, both in terms of motivation and arc.  

The Ancient One in Doctor Strange

She’s doing the wrong things for what she believes are the right reasons. For her, the end game is getting to Stephen Strange, that moment she can't see past. She’s known that the moment was coming and she knew Strange’s potential. When everything starts to fall apart, she has nobody to blame but herself.  Her actions and betrayal opened the door for Kaecilius to turn to Dormammu.  

Ironically, as Mordo says at the end of the action in Hong Kong, the bill always comes due. Part of the unforeseen price she would pay is Mordo’s character arc and his movement to become one of Strange’s arch enemies. Does she realize beforehand that she was going to open the world to Dormammu? Does she know that Mordo will turn against the Sorcerers? Was she using Kaecilius because she knew that it would ultimately lead to the best possible outcome? It is clear that she knew it wasn't all about her.

Dormammu - Destroyer Of Worlds

Dormammu. Yeah, totally missing from the trailers. This is a huge development for the MCU that will reverberate far beyond this film. Dormammu is easily the most powerful character we’ve seen on film in the MCU to this point. He dwarfs Thanos in stature AND raw power. Marvel movie fans will see his might come to bear in the years beyond Infinity War, maybe before. Fans of the comics, yours truly included, expected Dormammu but it wasn’t guaranteed based on the trailers. In case you missed it, check out our Dormammu teaser.

Dormammu in Doctor Strange

Magic Is The Art Of Misdirection

Like a true magician, the masterminds at Marvel practiced sleight of hand. The creative team misdirected the audience into expecting one thing and getting something entirely different. Unlike some other comic book movies in 2016 that oversold and didn’t deliver (I’m looking at YOU, Zack Snyder), Doctor Strange actually felt like it undersold and over delivered. With 12 movies under their belt in the MCU, Marvel knows that they have people turning out to see the bigger story. They were able to hold a lot of surprises back for Doctor Strange and that created a better viewing experience. DC’s Batman Vs Superman promised arguably the two most iconic superheroes fighting it out on the big screen. In the end, it only gave us about 8 minutes of Batman and Superman fighting each other, and really just served to set up Justice League next year. Oversold and underdeveloped.    

Beyond its Complexities

Magic and Laughs

Doctor Strange’s trailers did a good job of concealing the film’s true nature. It’s actually a much funnier film than the trailers implied. Strange certainly is a sarcastic genius that is very much in the mold of Tony Stark. He is arrogant and ultimately has to be completely broken before he can realize his true potential. He is snarky. The one liners, quips, and dialogue between characters is really clever. Lines like “Did you see THAT in a gift shop?” or "The “Wong?  Just Wong? Like Adele?” sequence were hilarious. The way he goes after, and stops Dormammu at the end is actually funnier than any other closing battle, except maybe Guardians Of The Galaxy.

The Fifth Infinity Stone...Time

The Eye Of Agamotto and time manipulation were never even hinted at in the trailers. Doctor Strange firmly establishes itself inside the MCU. We get connections to the Infinity Wars. As we had correctly guessed in our article last week, the Eye Of Agamotto is actually the Time Stone. We definitely can expect to see Doctor Strange and the Eye Of Agamotto in Avengers: Infinity War. Check out our Hunt for the remaining Infinity Stones.

The Time Infinity Stone in Doctor Strange

And The Winner Is?

When you stack Doctor Strange up against the Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Ant-Man, it certainly comes out ahead. Doctor Strange gave us a fantastic cast, great acting, a good balance of humor and action. It features a very nuanced plot that manages to pit three forces against each other with Stephen Strange in the middle.

So What is Your Favorite Origin Story in the MCU? 

Were you pleasantly surprised by Doctor Strange? Did it meet, or exceed, your expectations? Are you excited about the post credits teasers for Ragnarok and Doctor Strange 2?

Is Doctor Strange the Best Origin Story in the MCU? SUPERflix Movies on Monday, November 8, 2016

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