Here there be spoilers…
Halfway through the fun cosmic adventure that is Dr. Strange, I realized that the movie followed the same structure as the failed Green Lantern movie:
In the first 15 minutes, we are introduced to the charming but deeply flawed hero. Whereas Green Lantern gave us a likable actor in Ryan Reynolds, Dr. Strange gave us a likable Benedict Cumberbatch. But Dr. Strange gave us something that Green Lantern never did: A reason why the protagonist decided to “protag.” Like the comic book creators say in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, “The question is why.” For Stephen Strange, his why is the same as Tony Stark and Thor Odinson: hubris. We never really get the “why” in Green Lantern. He just found a lantern and figured he’d become a super hero.
After the intro, both heroes are indoctrinated into a universe that is greater than the Earth they know. The GL Guardians can easily be substituted with the Ancient One and the rest of the sorcerers. They are a police force that protects Earth from otherworldly threats that the average person is completely unaware of.
They teach the hero how to bend reality to his imagination. They even give him a ring at one point. The hero goes through the stages of adventure, from denial to acceptance, and is soon kicking butt better than those who have trained for years. He faces off against the bad guy, who is just an appetizer for the cosmic, shapeless true evil. And his mentor turns bad.
Despite the parallels, Dr. Strange was a stronger movie. It wasn’t stuffed with characters, just enough to get through. There was only one computer-rendered character, and it was the end villain. Everything was grounded in an internal logic that explained why magic was OK. (And thank you, Marvel, for just saying it was magic, and not science or midi-chlorians or whatever.)
And finally, the fight scenes were unique to the movie. What I mean to say is that the action sequences could have only happened in this movie. In particular, the scene with mystic monks fighting while time is going backward was something I had never seen before and could only be done in this kind of movie.
What I learned: When people say that you can’t do something if it happened in another movie, you still can, if you do it better.