Doctor Strange: The loopholes we ignored because of the stunning imagery and powerful acting
As much as we loved Doctor Strange for its visual effects and acting, some better writing would have given this film the greatness it deserved.
(Spoiler alert: This article is based on the most important scenes in the movie Doctor Strange. If you have not seen the movie and do not want any spoilers, please do not read any further.)
If Deadpool revitalised superhero films with its unique and refreshing brand of humour, Doctor Strange lived up to the huge expectations from Marvel after Deadpool simply by making us witness some of the most jaw-dropping visual effects.
In the movie, we see massive buildings in Manhattan bending in ways that make the similar scenes in Inception look obsolete, beautifully choreographed gravity-defying stunts during action sequences, a cloak with a personality of its own, and, most importantly, vast expanses of multi-coloured other-worldly dimensions which remind one of an extremely big supernova.
Apart from the absolutely stunning imagery, the cast also delivers a powerful performance. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Doctor Stephen Strange, the cocky but talented superhero whom we just can't help but love ('Genius billionaire playboy philanthropist' anyone?). Tilda Swinton effortlessly portrays the mysterious and all-knowing The Ancient One. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays the loyal and righteous Mordo.
But the best performance perhaps comes from Mads Mikkelsen, who plays the dark, brooding villain Kaecilius with a sharp 'Mister Doctor?' wit and a very convincing motivation to be 'evil' which almost makes one side with him (more on this later).
Without a doubt, Doctor Strange is one of the better Marvel movies in recent times. However, it has some glaring flaws which prevent it from becoming a Marvel classic like The Avengers.
Doctor Strange suffers from some massive plot loopholes, which get revealed in the most important scenes.
Let's do a quick recap of the plot before analysing the loopholes. Doctor Stephen Strange is a neurosurgeon who travels to Kathmandu to find a cure to the damage to his hands caused by a car accident. He is trained there by a sorcerer called The Ancient One in the mystic arts and taught of the other dimensions which exist apart from the universe human beings live in. Kaecilius is a former student of The Ancient One who betrays her and joins Dormammu (an evil, immortal being residing in the Dark Dimension) in his quest to (surprise, surprise) destroy and devour the earth. After the Ancient One is killed by Kaecilius, it is up to Doctor Strange and his friends to stop Dormammu from devouring the world.
Now, put your geek hat on and let's look at the loopholes.
The final confrontation with Dormammu
In the final battle, Doctor Strange eventually confronts Dormammu in the Dark Dimension and tries to negotiate. Dormammu, the evil and immortal being that he is, quickly kills him. But then, something rather 'strange' happens (C'mon, you knew this pun was going to be used at some point).
Strange comes back alive and Dormammu realises to his surprise that the entire confrontation takes place all over again, like an extremely real déjà vu.
It is then revealed that Strange trapped himself and Dormammu into an infinite time loop using the mystical Eye of Agamotto, which can turn back time. Thus, Dormammu and Strange are doomed to re-live the time from Strange confronting Dormammu to Strange's death over and over again.
There is just one problem: Time does not exist in the Dark Dimension. So how can Doctor Strange turn back something which does not exist? It's like saying one changed the flow of water in a world where water does not exist.
But hey, this is science fiction, I hear you say. One could argue that the Eye of Agamotto was so strong that it transferred time from earth into a dimension where it does not exist (even though Strange always uses the Eye to bend time earlier in the movie, never transfer it like a commodity).
But then, this looks like a cop out. Even if this ridiculous argument was assumed to be true, the Eye of Agamotto becomes like one of those shiny gadgets which filmmakers create when they are too lazy to figure out an intelligent way to help the protagonist out of a tight spot in a movie. It's like one of those lazer-shooting pens or an invisible car which James Bond films have been criticised for.
Let's be a bit lenient, though, and say that science fiction is anyway illogical, and move on.
After the time loop has repeated itself many, many times and Doctor Strange has died painful deaths those many times, Dormammu decides he cannot take the pain of re-living the same moment over and over again and decides to leave earth alone. Doctor Strange then breaks the time loop and returns to earth.
Really, Marvel? Dormammu let Doctor Strange go because he got bored?
Remember that Dormammu is an immortal being who has existed for an eternity. Doctor Strange is a mortal human being who is experiencing excruciating death over and over again.
These two are playing chicken in an endless time loop. But the mortal being dying infinite painful deaths wins in the end. How convenient.
Most probably, the filmmakers decided to go with this version of the final battle because they wanted to give us a break from the same final battle formula filled with stunts and special effects and involve the characters in something more psychological, which works to some extent.
But while it is refreshing to see the concept of time being used in the final battle, the fact that there were two major loopholes (one of which is, at best, a cop out) during the climax of the film is extremely annoying.
Moral ambiguity of The Ancient One
The most crucial plot point in Doctor Strange has a massive loophole. In the movie, drawing power from the Dark Dimension can grant one immortality. But The Ancient One forbids her disciples from doing that because Dormammu's "eternal life is not paradise but torment".
Kaecilius betrays The Ancient One because he is convinced that she has been able to live an unnaturally long life because she secretly draws power from the Dark Dimension. His allegation is eventually proven true and Doctor Strange and Mordo are outraged.
But Strange's outrage against the Ancient One's hypocrisy suddenly and inexplicably disappears even before she says literally the only line in the movie which is remotely connected to the reason behind her links with the Dark Dimension:
"I've hated drawing power from the Dark Dimension, but as you well know, sometimes one must break the rules in order to serve the greater good."
That's it? So other human beings should be deprived of immortality but the Ancient One can get that power because she has the burden of "serving the greater good"?
Here's an idea: Why didn't The Ancient One train her disciples to secretly draw power from the Dark Dimension? That way, they could lead a normal, "torment"-free life like she had been leading till her death and also "serve the greater good".
The film also never specifies what "greater good" she had been exclusively using those powers for.
Not only does this one line make absolutely no sense but this also shows the lack of thought given by the filmmakers to the most important plot point.
The massive question mark about the moral ambiguity of The Ancient One, which was the cause behind so many other events in the film, certainly deserved an answer longer than a single sentence.
The significance of this loophole can be understood once you realise that this loophole almost made Kaecilius, one of the main villains, look like the real hero of the film.
Without any proper explanation, The Ancient One looks like a hypocrite and this almost justifies Kaecilius' motives, which is why one may find oneself siding with him at a point in the film. In fact, this completely justifies Mordo's motives for leaving Doctor Strange and Wong in the end because poor Mordo loyally followed every instruction of The Ancient One until he realised he was being hoodwinked by her. Mordo, as Doctor Strange comic fans will know, turns into a villain later on.
When a movie makes the villains look like nice guys, you know it had a serious loophole. So, as much as we loved Doctor Strange for its amazing visual effects and brilliant acting, some better writing and a full-proof plot would have given this film the greatness it deserved.
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