Tell me if this story rings a bell: We meet a self-involved, extremely wealthy, charming egomaniac whose bottom line is about making more money and acquiring more prestige. When he is struck with life-threatening injuries, he seeks out an advanced and radical treatment to cure himself. During the process, he learns to be a better human being, then learns to be a hero. By the end of the movie, after a lot of training montages, he’s a full-fledged superhero and he doesn’t care who knows it.
This, of course, is the plot of 2008’s Iron Man, an origin story movie that took a then fairly unknown to the masses superhero and transformed him (and its star, Robert Downey Jr.) into one of the most recognizable characters on the planet. And it launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it today.
That summary is also the plot of Doctor Strange, a character who, right now, is fairly unknown to mass audiences – but that’s all about to change. And after seeing Doctor Strange, it seems pretty obvious that Marvel is banking that Benedict Cumberbatch’s Stephen Strange will be their new go-to character as Downey (now 51) isn’t going to play Tony Stark forever. (Or, at the very least, isn’t going to be the central character who seems to bob and weave his way into other characters’ movies. Of the now 14 Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, Stark has appeared in 7 of those. He will next appear in next year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming.)
Like Iron Man, Doctor Strange is such a self-contained origin story, it kind of seems refreshing. At no point do characters decide, “Hey, let’s go see what Hawkeye is up to!” A disclaimer: Yes, origin stories are overdone, but Marvel hasn’t done one without someone else from the MCU showing up in a long time. It’s been awhile; even Guardians of the Galaxy incorporated MCU Big Bad Thanos. Here, we go all in into the world of Doctor Strange. And it’s a weird world.