Superhero movies have exploded in popularity in recent years. In particular, movies in the Marvel Universe have received critical praise and billions of dollars. Thanks to their success, Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America (and more) have become household names.
These movies are filled with action, romance, and tons of special effects. On the surface they seem like harmless fun, and for the most part, they are. However, one of the more recent entries in Marvel’s ever-expanding catalogue is little more troubling. Skipping over the more obvious issues of glorifying mysticism, Doctor Strange tells a narrative eerily similar to the biblical story of the Fall–but with some very key differences.
In the movie’s first act, Steven Strange is a brilliant but arrogant surgeon at the top of his game. He suffers a car crash, which severely injures his hands and effectively ends his career.
This leads him to try many different reconstructive surgeries, though none are successful enough to give him the healing he desperately desires.
At this point, Steven Strange has hit rock bottom. He enters a depressed, drunken stupor. Desperate for help, he seeks out a man who miraculously recovered from an injury that had left him paralyzed.
This man tells him to visit the mystical place known as Kamar-Taj to seek out healing.
Strange eventually finds this place, which is a kind of training ground for the mystic arts (astral projection, teleportation, and visiting other dimensions) overseen by a wise and powerful teacher know as the Ancient One.
From here, Strange’s hands are finally restored. But more than that, he is thrust into the middle of a much larger story.
Here’s where things get interesting.
The Fallen One
Steven Strange is told that some time prior to his arrival, a student of Kamar-Taj rebelled against the Ancient One and is now seeking to unleash an evil into the world. This student, named Kaecilius, was once under the direct instruction and care of the Ancient One, but eventually began to question her right to rule. He sowed doubt into the minds of some of the other students as to the Ancient One’s intentions, and they were all driven from Kamar-Taj.
Now, after seeking it ever since leaving Kamar-Taj, this deserter claims to hold the key to eternal life. When they eventually meet, this is precisely what he promises Stephen Strange.
This rebel tells Strange that the Ancient One is not who she says she is. Kaecilius claims that she gains some of her mystical power by channeling it from the “dark dimension.” Naturally, Strange is unwilling to believe this; he has only known her as a stern but benevolent teacher. He denies Kaecilius’ offer of eternal life. Good, right?
The kicker is that Kaecilius’ claims turn out to be true, and his accusations against the Ancient One are found to be entirely valid. She has been channeling power from the dark dimension, and though she still seems to desire good, she is no longer the pillar of goodness some of her students had thought her to be.
A Transition of Power
Spoiler alert: the Ancient One dies at the hand of Kaecilius. Once she is killed, it seems that there is no longer a greater power to stand against the forces of evil in the world. So her followers take up the fight, and they are ultimately successful in overcoming evil.
So it is that seat of power moves from the extremely powerful and wise Ancient One and directly into the hands of her followers. The Ancient One was not entirely honest, and Steven Strange acknowledges this. Really, though, she is no longer needed. Despite their disillusionment, her followers become just as powerful as the Ancient One herself.
A man at the end of his rope finds healing from an otherworldly source. A rebel against the God-like being of Kamar-Taj claims to offer eternal life, while also casting aspersions against the Ancient One.
Some would argue that Doctor Strange is just mindless entertainment, and there’s nothing in the story that deserves an in-depth analysis. This may be true, but the parallels between its story and struggle of power that existed at the time of the biblical Fall are too similar to ignore. But instead of the God figure remaining untarnished and just, the Ancient One turns out to be worthy of being second-guessed.
Implications like these are a slippery slope. Whether movies like Doctor Strange deserve in-depth thought is ultimately up to you, but it’s important to read between the lines.