What if an alien in the future stumbled upon Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange? Welcome to Earthling Cinema, where we examine the last remaining artifacts of a once-proud culture and try to understand what human lives were like before their planet was destroyed. I’m your host, Garyx Wormuloid.
This week’s film:
Doctor Strange (2016)
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Tilda Swinton
Director: Scott Derrickson
Production Co: Marvel Studios
Written by: Ben Steiner
Directed by: Jared Bauer
Analysis by: Kevin Winzer
Starring: Mark Schroeder (https://twitter.com/mark_schroeder)
Edited by: Ryan Hailey (http://www.ryanhaileydotcom.com/)
Original Music by: David Krystal (http://www.davidkrystalmusic.com)
Opening Animation by: Danny Rapaport
Produced by: Jacob S. Salamon
Doctor Strange’s Hidden Meaning – Earthling Cinema
Greetings, and welcome to Earthling Cinema. I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week’s artifact is Doctor Strange, starring patron saint of cheekbones and Revolutionary War scapegoat Benedict Arnoldbatch.
The film follows an Earthling doctor named Stevie Strange who thinks he’s all that and a bag of starch wafers. But then a car crashes into his hands and he can’t be doctor no more. He tries everything to fix them, including whining, but nothing works. Then he learns that there’s such a thing as Eastern medicine, so he travels to Asia to meet a middle-aged white lady with a British accent who agrees to teach him fireworks.
Strange studies super hard and reads a whole bunch of library books, almost as if he’s never heard of Thug Notes. He even reads stuff from the secret, off-limits section labeled “time control powers that might come in handy later.” The librarian tells him not to be such a nerd or he’ll end up like Kaecilius, a former student who liked spells so much he joined the Dark Side of the Force in an entirely different Disney franchise.
Kaecilius’s ears are burning, so he shows up to see who’s talking smack. And this time he’s joined by his new squeeze, an evil space cloud named Dormammu. Kaecilius kills the Middle-Aged British One and destroys two of the three magic buildings that protect Earth, but not before revealing the Middle-Aged One’s darkest secret: she’s bald.
Strange stops off for a quick makeover montage, then meanders over to Hong Kong to protect the final magic building before tea. The only problem is that tea is almost over and Dormammu is already slurping down Planet Earth like it’s his job, which it isn’t, because clouds can’t have jobs. Strange uses his illegal time powers to trap Dormammu with him in a single moment forever, a.k.a. my wife’s signature move. Finally they strike a deal, and Strange sets Dormammu free on the condition that he go bother some other planet full of innocent people that’s out of his jurisdiction.
Doctor Strange explores the nature of human consciousness, especially if you watch it high as shit. In the beginning, Strange views the world as a materialist and a reductionist, as evidenced by his lack of facial hair. He’s a basic bitch, so he believes any phenomenon, no matter how complex, can be reduced to its most basic physical mechanisms. That and he loves pumpkin spice lattes.
This ideology contributes to Strange’s lack of empathy. Since to him people are just masses of cells, he can ignore intangibles like emotion or human decency and freely behave like a sweaty little plasma-sack. He feels no particular inclination to help people in need unless one or more of those people are him.
But Strange adopts a more metaphysical perspective when the Middle-Aged One grants him his holy goatee and opens his “eye”. The film draws from religions such as Hinduism in its use of the eye to represent a tiny, near-sighted gateway to higher consciousness. The eyes of Kaecilius and the zealots are blackened and oozing, reflecting their abuse of this gateway, not to mention their punk rock lifestyle.
Another prevalent theme in the movie is time, which Kaecilius views as not being on his side, no it isn’t. Doctor Strange is similarly fixated with the hands of time, despite the fact that hands are a sore subject for him. Medicine is a battle against the clock, all in the hopes of fending off death as long as possible. But as he learns from his culturally-appropriating, snow white guru, life is meaningful only insofar as it is finite.
Strange embraces this wisdom when he demonstrates his willingness to sacrifice his life over and over to save the ones he loves and also the ones he only likes as a friend. Whereas Strange once collected expensive watches that reflected his cavalier attitude toward time, in the end, Strange wears only a broken keepsake as a reminder that his life will someday end, and that he must value his life and the people in it. At least until he can make a trip to the watch store.
For Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid. Goodbye.