The Road to Infinity War: Doctor Strange

Coming out after the near superhero masterpiece that is Captain America: Civil War left Doctor Strange with a high bar to clear. It’s no wonder then that the film seems a little forgotten and not often talked about in the grand scheme of the MCU. It is, however, important in the long term as Doctor Strange will most like be one of the main Avengers post Infinity War’s carnage and takes another important, if not the final step in expanding the Marvel Cinematic Universe even further than Guardians of the Galaxy into the multiverse.

Doctor Strange is an interesting Phase 3 entry in that Strange harkens back to the Tony Stark we met many years ago in the first Iron Man. He’s extremely successful, arrogant, and selfish. Both men’s careers give them the ability to hold people’s lives in their hands and both see themselves as untouchable or perhaps even invincible until they’re rocked by nearly life ending incidents. They’re different in one key way however; Steven Strange is very hard to root for until he’s been humbled. Tony Stark, even as he’s toasting to peace while firing off rockets, has an impish charm that’s hard to resist. Strange, on the other hand, as he takes a phone call and scrolls through images while speeding down a wet, winding road almost dares you not to like him.

Ultimately, however, Strange is a charming Stark-like hero. He bends the rules, sprints ahead of the pack, and rises to the occasion when called upon. His commitment to spend eternity dying over and over at the hands of Dormammu is an incredible 180 degree change for the character and one of the more selfless acts we’ve seen from a hero in the MCU. And I think, should Strange survive Infinity War (a Doctor Strange sequel has not been officially announced yet) there is a promising future for the continuation of his story. Some of the best work the MCU has done in recent years, think Civil War and Black Panther, has been set up two sides that are empathetic and understandable, existing in a world that is much more grey than it is black and white or good and evil.

While Doctor Strange makes the awful mistake of underutilizing talented actors like Rachel McAdams, Michael Stuhlbarg, and most notably, its villain, Mads Mikkelsen, it does set the table for Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Mordo to be an Erik Killmonger like villain going forward. It also creates the potential for any number of new and exciting visuals and locals given the stunning effects it achieved this time around. While many dismissed the twisting in on itself CGI as an Inception knock off, a revisit of the film shows just how untrue that assessment is. The visual effects in Doctor Strange are like an ever changing puzzle box, a kaleidoscope on acid. The way the characters are able to move within these constantly changing locations tests your brain’s ability to follow along.

In the end Doctor Strange is one of the most interesting and seemingly least talked about films in the MCU. It sets up a future post Infinity War that is familiar and altogether different; one of the infinite number of universes floating out in the unknown. Perhaps it’s a future where Strange takes the lead as our brash, charming, Stark-like protagonist. While we don’t know much about what comes after Thanos, I think Doctor Strange offers a lot of clues about any number of directions the MCU could go in. And in the end that’s what is most promising of all, that the MCU could take any form going forward; lying in wait, unpredictable.