The Sorcerer Supreme

It seems Doctor Stephen Strange had it easier than young Harry Potter, not just in terms of their life before becoming the Sorcerer Supreme or the world’s greatest wizard, but also in terms or the reception by the Church.

Poor Harry not only had to endure his abusive relatives but I also remember that when the first Harry Potter movie came out, there were protests against it and a petition against its showing. There were certain sectors of the Church that feared that the movie would lead children into engaging in sorcery and unwittingly unleash all sorts of demons and whatnots into the world. One can understand the fear that a people who believe in spirits and demons has on a movie about a young boy gaining so much power through wizardry. Children might identify with young Harry and start invoking spells that may conjure up God knows what. We’ve all heard of how young children have been influenced by stories and have done horrible things in connection with those stories.

Take the Slender Man stabbing in the US. The Slender Man was an entry for a Photoshop contest creating paranormal images that was later embellished by fan fiction. Two 12-year olds wanted to be the Slender Man’s proxies and lured their friend to a spot where they tried to kill her. The victim survived but the story is enough to show how children can be influenced to do horrible things by something fictional. The Harry Potter books were massively popular and having these stories turned into movies doubled the danger feared by parents and religious organizations.

In contrast, Doctor Strange was wealthy and privileged, and even as I am subscribed to a number of news organizations, I don’t recall a single article or news item regarding any protest or even an expression of concern regarding the filming or showing of Doctor Strange, and people were aware of it years before it became a reality. So, what gives?

For one thing, the protagonist is a grown man and not a boy. I’m not exactly sure how that can be better other than they won’t be looking at someone their age. If that will make them less likely to copy an older guy, then I suppose that’s a good thing. Another point is that it looks more like a martial arts film that one on spells and witchcraft. Yes, they have “spells” but not much incantations other for the bad guys invoking an evil lord. The good guys just used enhanced weapons, or brightly colored spell-gloves for lack of a better term.

Speaking of spells, that was a staple in the comic/graphic novel. Not seeing it here, or even the long range spells/blasts, diminishes the experience. 

The rest of the movie, however, is A1. This is magnificent film making with a wonderful script, with deep insights well dispersed to avoid dragging the movie, and an incredible cast. Aside from what I’ve already said above, the remaining problems I have with this movie are: first, the lead actress/love interest doesn’t quite have chemistry with the Doc much like Thor’s Jane, or Cap’s Agent Carter or Agent 13. The one lady that had that spark was Iron Man’s Pepper, or at least they did in the first two Iron Man installments and the first Avengers movie. When the third changed directors, the spark was gone. She wasn’t even in the second Avengers movie. What a waste.

Second, the appearance of Dormammu was also disappointing. Why did they have to show him to be some disembodied spirit with a face? A hint of some lack of imagination. Me? I would have Dormammu take the form of a man but not just any man. I would have him look like Doctor Strange himself as a kind of dark mirror of the Sorceror Supreme. Wouldn’t that make it more interesting for the good doctor considering the moral dilemma he and Mordo were grapling with?

Last, Doctor Strange pushed boundaries as far as he can. Stark did that as well specially with his failed Ultron project. The creation of Vision could also have gone differently. Even with the Mind Stone, Vision’s first act after awakening was to attack the Avengers. In fact, it was only because of the Stone that Vision was able to better understand the situation. Stark got lucky. Strange had figure things for himself. Unfortunately, this did not translate well in the movie and we are left thinking that all this power was given to a cowboy. Maybe this will be better addressed in the sequels. As far as this movie is concerned, however, it seemed to indicate a rush to just find an ending for the movie. 

Put those aside, then you actually have what is probably the best Marvel movie to date. It will go through the inevitable comparison with Iron Man considering the similarities, just replace technology with sorecery. Where this surpasses the other is in the emotional content that the script brings to the table, something that all of Tony’s toys can’t compare with. Of course, Mr. Cumberbach’s performace, sans the accent, is just royal. The development of Mordo is just as moving. The choice of actors for Mordo and the Ancient One were such a coup that you appreciate these flawed heroes all the more.

I guess it’s that wonderful mix that simply overwhelms any opposition to this movie. Doctor Strange must really be the Sorcerer Supreme who has cast a spell over us that enabled us to leave the theaters satisfied and wanting for more.

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