Ever since the '70s, Hollywood has been trying to get Doctor Strange on screen. When the MCU did it, it debuted to mixed reactions, falling in the Ant-Man realm of fun but not particularly amazing. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, alongside Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Mads Mikkelsen, Doctor Strange the movie was unfortunately underwhelming. He’ll be a wild card supporting character in Infinity War and pop up around the MCU, but Marvel studios executives have already said they’re not planning to make any sequels.
It’s a shame for sure, for die hard fans of Stephen Strange. His flaws mirror those of Tony Stark. Isolated, privileged super smart guys, who shun society and throw themselves into their work. But Doctor Strange pursues academia and magic, rather than science. Strange has the ability to look back in history where Stark is grounded in industrialism. They can’t all be James Bond wannabes though, and Doctor Strange’s misanthropic bachelorhood and casual womanization are traits that are mostly boring to tell stories about. The central conflict of the movie was for Strange to abandon his ego, so at least he’s vaguely aware of it, but it was achieved far too easily, the audience felt cheated, not surprised or impressed.
16 100 PER DAY
A montage is a sequence that usually shows the acquisition of skills over some extended period of time. In Doctor Strange, Stephen’s training scene at Kamar-Taj was one of the trademark parts of the movie. In every serious rendition of magic, it’s always a very scholarly, skillful pursuit. Just how much magic is really out there? It never seems like any of this information is digitized, always hidden in old, leather bound books in secret libraries.
As far as the skill side, the movie shows that he had some pretty good teachers, but the greater struggle he encounters, the more believable his hero’s journey becomes. In another world, this whole movie could be about Strange’s training to become a sorcerer. One could take this meme to heart and zoom in on a training based story line, basically making Rocky meets Harry Potter.
15 CAMERA FACE
It’s not clear if this meme is citing an actual set photo here, but it does draw attention to Strange’s signature stare. It’s all in the eyebrows, making Benedict Cumberbatch the perfect choice for the Sorcerer Supreme. A key part of Strange’s conflict, one that barely gets resolved in the movie, is his narcissism. It pays off, in some cases, to have the ego to become a magician in a feature film’s time. On the other hand, he remains a regrettable, self centered human being almost the whole time, it’s even a cornerstone of his character.
Is this really a hero that can’t grow in that area? What message are we sending to young kids to want to grow up and be bachelor magicians? Maybe there’s another version of this film that plays more like a As Good As It Gets meets Harry Potter.
14 SIDEWALK CHALK
Actually, there is a character, with a blue cape and red tunic, that speaks in rhyme, but he doesn’t exist in this comic book universe that we know. This is the first of several memes to mention that “Come to Bargain” line, it seems like that was the largest cultural takeaway from a film that got some pretty mild reviews. Everyone, even if they didn’t see the movie will know that line, though, and it pretty much sums up the movie, there aren’t too many surprises, the only remarkable thing upon rewatch is the commitment to the visual effects.
Magic finally looks great in movies, “I’ve come to bargain” is now a thing. This meme is reminiscent of sidewalk chalk, and they forgot to add his sling ring.
13 EXCUSE ME, SIR
Kaecilius calls Dormammu “The Why of All Existence”. Coupled with this meme, that pretty much makes him the worst door to door savior evangelist ever. On the whole, despite some glamorously made up eyes, the human villain of the movie, played by Mads Mikkelsen doesn’t quite soar off the screen. His performance fills the character, but there’s just never quite enough buy in from the audience to care one way or another about his agenda.
Underneath Stephen Strange’s melodrama through the movie, there is mention of the strained dynamic between the other mentors/proteges of Kamar-Taj, of relationships gone sour between the Ancient One, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Kaecilius, but that conflict is never quite fleshed out for audiences. While he’s not the biggest problem with the movie, the villain development problem in the MCU clearly hadn’t been resolved in Doctor Strange.
12 REEL IT IN
Whatever mistakes the movie made, it did introduce Doctor Strange to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and along with him, an incredibly powerful range of magic and vast inventory of mystical artifacts. Strange is a heavy hitter for sure. Despite his character flaws, Strange’s magic will boost the MCU immensely in the coming movies and in the battle against Thanos. His mystical powers allow him to compete with interdimensional heroes and villains, but also, his New York roots allow him to be the friendly neighborhood Sorcerer Supreme as well.
Doctor Strange’s versatility and knack for bending reality can make him a hard character to write for. He can’t just charge in and use a spell specifically suited to solve any situation. Still, he’s a good guy to have on the Avengers’ side.
11 BUT OFFICER
Again, Benedict Cumberbatch has “come to bargain” as Doctor Strange. CBR doesn’t recommend dropping Marvel movie references when interacting with police, but if the ground looks soft enough, maybe it comes up in some other way, this might be an apt meme for application to real life.
There is something to a superhero, fantastically based off of magic, who, when faced against a galactic demon proposes such a rational solution as a bargain. One wouldn’t think a hero from such supernatural circumstances would offer something like a compromise. Of course he could throw dozens of different spells and curses at you, but instead, he’s come to bargain, what a magnanimous figure. Just don’t look too closely on the deal they eventually make. It’s not as magnanimous.
10 STRANGE V. SUPERMAN
There are plenty of other DC characters that could oppose Superman with their magic, but this meme does present a pretty great "What If?". Doctor Strange and Mordo are stranded on an unknown planet, one that’s overseen by a brainwashed version of Superman. Evil Superman hunts Strange and Mordo until they eventually learn enough to realize they’re on Bizarro World. That’s when they realize they have to contact Shazam for help.
Seriously though, it’s looking more and more like a sequel won’t happen, so the Strange and Mordo mentorship/partnership is a missed opportunity, even if Mordo was going to break bad. Seeing Cumberbatch and Chiwetel Ejiofor playing off of each other was one of the reasons the movie worked. A follow-up could dive into that relationship and audiences could learn more about Strange’s hero’s journey through who he is as a friend. Think Easy Rider meets The Prestige.
That was one charming cloak. Along with the stunning performance of Chiwetel Ejiofor, the Cloak of Levitation was another mark in the movie’s “plus” column. There was a very Magic-Carpet-from-Aladdin vibe that the Cloak carried with it through its scenes. It had a great knack of being always there, but only eye catching at certain moments. The humor employed by the Cloak was perfect as well, restrained, but well timed and used to great effect.
That being said, there’s some severe comment on the emotional dynamics of this character and his relationship to love. The charm of a cloak was one of the top five best things about this movie, which says a lot about the themes tackled by this story. In Doctor Strange’s ultimate quest for emotional fulfillment, the Cloak of Levitation isn’t going to be enough for him, or for audiences.
8 I AM CUMBERBATCH
There are a group of memes that comment on how great it is that Benedict Cumberbatch is penetrating into every nook and cranny of geek culture that will have him. Whether he’s playing Stephen Strange here, Khan in Star Trek, Smaug in Lord of the Rings, or Sherlock Holmes, it’s entertaining. Cumberbatch is especially ideal for heroes, villains and dragons that are driven by their minds. These are thoughtful, considered characters. As audiences watch Doctor Strange’s expression, they can see his wheels turning as he’s conjuring up a spell.
There is a concern that he becomes a sort of George Clooney type superstar actor. Whichever role Cumberbatch comes to, it’ll still basically be him. He’s just that guy: an instant character, but completely unique, and always recognizable.
7 SENIOR YEAR
Stephen Strange’s descent into depression after his car accident is a little bit soft, but still kind of hard to watch. This meme tempts everyone to reflect on just how sharply life’s Porsche can veer off its curve and circumstances can change completely. There’s another darkness here as well. If the Freshman/Senior Year premise of the before and after is accepted, this meme is making a pretty harsh comment about the passage of time and progress descending into disorder.
There is a phenomenon of people beginning college at their freshman year, being four years younger than when they leave in their senior year. It’s a struggle that never goes away unfortunately. Everyone reading this meme can relate to a feeling of fear for growing older and regret from leaving their youth. This meme leaves out the part where Strange becomes a powerful magician/superhero.
6 SHERLOCK STRANGE
Here’s an example of Benedict Cumberbatch being the damaged intellectual actor of his time. Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Strange; there’s a nice, obsessive, studious, antisocial, overlap in those two characters. The rest of the meme illustrates how great the MCU has grown, encompassing all of the major stars of the day.
Martin Freeman has seemed like he’s everywhere ever since his breakout on the UK’s The Office. It’s hard to imagine how one literary figure entertained both Cumberbatch and Downey at the same time, but Sherlock really is just that good. Then Jude Law will be making an appearance in the upcoming Captain Marvel as the legacy version of the character. There might be a concern of movie stars adding their token Marvel movie to their resumes, and the cameos getting out of hand, pandering to super celebrity. Until then, it’s amazing to see the franchise flourish.
5 MOVIE MAGIC
This distinction between what the actors are working with and what the audience sees says a lot about how amazing it is that these movies come out as well as they do. How can anyone act with a huge, bright, green set piece consuming their field of vision? The level of imagination has to be extraordinary. Not everyone thinks it makes for the greatest movie making. Some actors have spoken ill of the Marvel experience, saying it breaks the creation process down into a corporate cookie cutter production.
A movie with this many visual effects, like Doctor Strange, could only succeed with the advances of green screen technology that exist in cinema today. Even though it may seem forced, there’s really no more realistic way to make a movie about magic spells, sorcery, and dark universal monsters.
4 SPEED OF THOUGHT
Thanks to Doctor Strange’s Sling Ring, he can travel anywhere as soon as he can visualize his destination. It’s one of his key powers, but it still creates a lot of problems in writing the character. This meme reminds fans that any plot holes or inconsistencies can be covered up with the explanation of magic. At the same time, the unbridled power of hidden forces that connect the universe has always tantalized audiences. The possibilities are endless, but moviegoers, and really, everyone everywhere, need to beware of getting exactly what they wish for.
A story line based around all powerful magicians has the possibility of being a little bit too straight forward to be a complete hero’s journey. Now for example, how can Doctor Strange grow? He’s already become a master magician and Sorcerer Supreme in record time and the box office didn’t really find that very compelling.
3 STOP MAKING SENSE
One of the most glib Tilda Swinton lines she’s ever had on screen is reminding Stephen Strange that not everything always makes sense. This is such a great dimension to add to the MCU. The multiverse, cosmic powers, and so much mystic potential was added to the cinematic continuity in this movie, that it would be great if Marvel expanded on the mystical side of the superhero movie genre.
So far, the super subject matter has been straight ahead, focusing on classic hero origins, espionage, good and evil, bad actors. Most recently, audiences have been introduced to the cosmic level of Marvel through Guardians of the Galaxy and its sequel. Exploring the magical side will open up its dissection of imagination even farther. Spirits of Vengeance, Moon Knight, and more of the Scarlet Witch character could all release audiences from conventional ideas about how its stories should be told.
2 AWESOME FACIAL HAIR BROS
They both played Sherlock Holmes, and now they both wear goatees in the MCU. Either Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr. have the same manager or there’s a troubling undercurrent of masculinity running through Hollywood in the guise of dark, handsome, withdrawn men in goatees. Running parallel to the blond, buff, surfer dudes in Hemsworth and Pratt, and underneath the trend of the males appearing shirtless in every movie, there’s a pattern of some nature forming in the way men are being role modeled through these films.
While a guy could probably do worse than looking to Captain America for some of the tough questions, it’s important to heed the words of Uncle Ben, and remember that with great power comes great responsibility, and consider the ways these “heroes” aka, Awesome Facial Hair Bros, shape society’s males.
While there’s no evidence to suggest that Doctor Strange would ever actually behave this way, it brings up the matter of his secret identity. Strange is one of the heroes who doesn’t seem to be keeping up a civilian alias at all. After his hands were broken, he lost his job at the hospital, but it’s not clear that he does anything other than sit in the Sanctum Sanctorum all day and bum around.
Stephen Strange stands alone as the kind of hero who stands alone. He’s solitary almost to the point of being anti-social, and he’s deep in the top five of being the biggest jerk out of all the superheroes. The lesson Marvel is apparently teaching audiences is that heroes come in all shapes, and from all kinds of personalities. But he can still be a hard hero to root for. Just ask Christine Palmer. Who? Exactly.