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  • Accidental Aesop:
    • The moral presented in the first act — which kicks off Strange's entire journey — is "don't use your cell phone and drive", even though this has little to do with the movie's overall message. That being said, there is a message telling audiences not to text and drive in the credits, so perhaps this isn't as incidental as it initially appears.
    • While Strange has a certain proclivity for it, the way he got his magical power was by studying hard, training harder, and generally maintaining a good work ethic. Though this is something of an Accidental Space Whale Aesop, since none of us are learning magic anytime soon.
  • Author's Saving Throw:
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    • After the controversial casting of the Ancient One as a white woman, producer Kevin Feige stated that her title is one that many have held throughout history, implying that a more traditional interpretation of the character existed at some point in the MCU's past. While this didn't stop the controversy, it did at least throw fans a bone. Although that's murkier in the film itself, where it's stated that the current holder of the Sorcerer Supreme title is known as the Ancient One because she's held it so long her name has been forgotten and, counterwise, Agamotto was stated to be the first Sorcerer Supreme.
    • Wong has been rewritten to have considerably fewer Ethnic Menial Labor aspects with the goal of making him a less racially stereotypical character as mentioned below; while his earliest appearances were along the lines of "Asian manservant," in media preceding the movie he's more of a Badass Normal Deadpan Snarker. While the controversy on other decisions remains, this was enough to appease some fans.
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    • Related, but in a preemptive example of this trope, the main reason Wong was included at all is because they knew there would be some backlash against the movie over giving the Ancient One role to a white actress instead of an Asian one. Originally, Derrickson wanted to avoid using Wong altogether.
    • When Marvel first announced they were preparing for a Doctor Strange film "at some point," Kevin Feige made a few comments about quantum mechanics and laws of probability, and how that weirdness is ground Doctor Strange could explore, leading many fans to be displeased with the idea that Strange's mystic arts would be given a quantum-mechanical-related Techno Babble Hand Wave. In response to fears that the MCU was too reliant on Clarke's Third Law and Science Fantasy, especially with the Thor movies, Word of God stated that the magic in Doctor Strange would be exactly what it looks like and that there would not be any Doing In the Wizard. Come the trailers, it's clear that this magic is magic.
      Scott Derrickson: Magic is magic in this movie. It's not something that's explained away scientifically.
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    • In a franchise-wide example, the reason for Mordo's Adaptational Heroism. Kevin Feige said that Mordo is kind of a Flat Character and Card-Carrying Villain in the comics, and since one of the most frequent criticisms of the MCU is that the bad guys tend to be shallow and bland, they felt it'd be better to introduce Mordo as a hero and then have him become an antagonist in future installments, which everyone felt would make for a more interesting and sympathetic villain.
    • Although is symptomatic less of Marvel in particular than the entire superhero genre, Scott Derrickson deliberately chose to avoid the cliche "brawl between superpowered beings" climax by having the hero outsmart his enemies, rather than outfight them, specifically by having Strange trap Dormammu in a Stable Time Loop and only releasing him when Dormammu agrees to leave Earth for good.
  • Awesome Music: The first released sample of Giacchino's score, "The Master of the Mystic End Credits," has received much praise for its unique blend of instruments and styles, with the end result being just as grandiose, majestic, and trippy as one would expect for a film about the Sorcerer Supreme. It has been compared favorably to Pink Floyd, among other things.
    • Giacchino's score as a whole is this, deftly combining action bombast with mysticism in a manner appropriate to the character.
  • Base-Breaking Character: Some have argued Kaecilius is a decent antagonist due to an understandable/well-defined motivation and a menacing performance by Mikkelsen, while many others have contested that he and his backstory simply aren't given enough screen-time for him to fully make an impact, and that he's further marginalized when it turns out he's merely a pawn of Dormammu.
  • Broken Base:
    • The casting of Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One has been divisive since it was first announced. While many are glad to have a powerful character be portrayed by a female actor, especially one as accomplished as Swinton, others are upset that the original Tibetan version isn't being used, mostly because the MCU has yet to feature a heroic Asian person in the films.note  It hurts that at the same time, the delay in a casting announcement for Iron Fist prompted a discussion of whether he should be Asian in contrast to the white comics character, accused by some to be a Mighty Whitey (only getting worse when Finn Jones was confirmed to play the titular Iron Fist). Then the teaser came out and revealed Swinton was still dressed in a distinctly Asian style, prompting yet more questions of why they didn't just cast an Asian actor. Co-writer C. Robert Cargill's comments on it being done to prevent the movie from being Banned in China due to a potential positive portrayal of a Tibetan character (which the studio itself later denied) added more controversy. He also didn't help things by accusing all the people upset over it of being "Social Justice Warriors", though he later backpedaled on it and said everyone absolutely has the right to have issues with it.
    • The humorous tone of this movie. Some people enjoyed it, other people would've preferred more seriousness and others like some of the humor but didn't cared much for the other. It shouldn't help that the trailers made the movie looked more serious without hinting at all the humorous moments.
  • Captain Obvious Reveal: Especially for comic-book readers, the revelation that the Eye of Agamotto is one of the Infinity Stones (the Time Stone, specifically) is no great surprise.
  • Cargo Ship: Dr. Strange/The Cloak of Levitation. It obviously likes Strange and cares about him, and although the film doesn't make it seem truly romantic, there's a not-inconsequential portion of the fanbase who ships them (whether seriously or as a Crack Ship).
  • Crack Ship: Dr. Strange/Everett Ross due to the fact that the latter is played by Martin Freeman, who costars with Cumberbatch on Sherlock.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: Strange's first death at the hands of Dormammu is horrifying. Before his second death, you realize what he's doing. Then you laugh at Dormammu's plight and the various over-the-top deaths afterwaards.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Despite the Cloak of Levitation being simply an accessory for Strange, it has gained quite a good amount of popularity for being an Empathic Weapon who tends to act more competent than Strange himself during the battles. It also has engaged in some Silent Snarker with Strange himself, providing a lot of laughs when it does.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple: Going by AO3, Strange/Mordo is easily the most popular ship in the fandom.
  • Fandom Rivalry: Even before she was named, Palmer received heat from Claire Temple's fans from the Netflix shows for being rumored to be the Night Nurse. Reasons are ranging from being a Replacement Scrappy (especially after Claire was actually called the Night Nurse in Luke Cage (2016)), the racial diversity problem in the film that was already fired up over the casting of the Ancient One, to the casting of Rachel McAdams in the part, who is much more known for being in romantic films rather than action films (which also drew bad comparisons to fan-favorite Rosario Dawson). In the comics, Palmer is indeed an incarnation of the Night Nurse in the comics, although beyond an homage to the The Oath miniseries, she does not assume the identity, leaving it open for Claire Temple and thus appeasing fansnote .
  • Fanon: Thanks to this gif of Chiwetel Ejiofor petting a cat, fandom (or at least the Strordo shippers) depicts Mordo as a Kind Hearted Cat Lover with a fondness for rescuing street catsnote .
  • Harsher in Hindsight: One of the explanations Marvel gave for not casting an Asian actress as the Ancient One concerned the need to avoid turning the Ancient One into a Dragon Lady. Iron Fist (2017) writers would later do just that to the Bride of Nine Spiders.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
  • Ho Yay: Mordo goes from a straightforward villain in the comics to a not love interest for Stephen Strange in this film.
    • Mordo's the one who rescues Stephen Strange (both literally and figuratively), champions for him to the Ancient One, and mentors Stephen on a day-to-day teaching level (with the Ancient One playing a more aloof, otherworldly mentor). He's also openly concerned about Stephen's well-being, worrying about Stephen's heart during the multiverse sequence, protecting the less experienced Stephen during the mirror dimension sequence and in the Hong Kong climax; he even has to be physically restrained by the Ancient One from going after Stephen during the latter's sling ring training.
    • Mordo overall comes across like he has a huge crush on Strange. Stephen's the one that makes him doubt the Ancient One, a person he's shown to feel deep respect and trust for. And what's the final straw that drives him to have a silent (not so silent in a promo for the film) Heroic BSoD and pushes into his Despair Event Horizon? It's not Dormammu's arrival, Wong's death and (presumably) several other student and civilian casualties, not even the Ancient One's death. It's Stephen's apparent betrayal when he flies to meet Dormmamu in the Dark Dimension. In Kaecilius' words: “Even Strange has left you”.
      • It's worth noting that the Ancient One's death does affect Mordo to a degree where it looks like he's about to give up on the fight against Kaecilius and Dormammu. When Strange returns to the NY Sanctum and tells Mordo that the Ancient One died, Mordo goes on a tangent about how the Dark Dimension could've overtaken the Ancient One and about how Kaecilius and the zealots' Face–Heel Turn is her fault. What pulls Mordo out of it is Strange telling him that he alone cannot defeat them and that he needs Mordo. In a way, Mordo keeps on fighting and defends the Hong Kong Sanctum because of Strange. It could be argued that both the Ancient One and Stephen Strange are the most important people in Mordo's life and that one of them dying and the other betraying him is what finally breaks him and pushes him pass his Despair Event Horizon and into his very own Face–Heel Turn. In addition, during the Hong Kong climax, Wong is right there and he is presumably a good friend of Mordo, which makes it both interesting and suspicious that Kaecilius would assume that losing Strange to Dormammu would affect Mordo more than losing a friend and colleague he has known for far longer than Strange.
    • The Ancient One does seem keen to enforce their camaraderie, considering she had to know she was going to train Strange at some point (since she saw herself dying in her future visions, with Strange next to her). She even makes sure that Strange knows they'll need each other before she dies.
    • Curiously enough, the film makes a point of Strange's brand of humor only working on the people who work for him, as Wong points out. Wong laughs after it's clear that he's going to be working for/with Strange, The Ancient One usually laughs at him and not with him, not even Christine finds his snarker tendencies amusing. All are annoyed by his cynicism, except Mordo, who smiles and laughs at his jokes. Not only does Mordo plays more love interest tropes than Christine does, Christine's Designated Love Interest/Satellite Love Interest vibe doesn't help. In the end, Mordo's arc with Strange wouldn't be out of place between the hero and his love interest.
  • It's the Same, Now It Sucks!:
    • One of the most common criticisms of this movie is that it's very similar to the past MCU movies in structure, plot, and focus. In particular Stephen Strange's personality and character arc feels like a retread of Tony Stark's in the first Iron Man note .
    • The score has received mixed reactions, with some saying that it feels too similar to the work Giacchino did for the Star Trek films.
  • It's Short, So It Sucks!: A common criticism is that Stephen Strange's training sessions could have been greatly expanded upon.
  • Just Here for Godzilla:
    • A large part of the viewing audience is mainly interested in this film to see Benedict Cumberbatch.
    • Pre-release (a case could be made for post-release as well) the people who wanted to watch the film only did so to see their favorite actor, be it Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, or Mads Mikkelsen.
    • Early trailers also made it clear the movie held the promise of mind-blowing visual effects on the level of Inception.
  • Launcher of a Thousand Ships: Doctor Stephen Strange is shipped with Christine, Mordo, Wong, Tony Stark, the Cloak of Levitation... Needlessly to say, he's become this.
  • Like You Would Really Do It: Given that Wong had been confirmed to appear in Avengers: Infinity War around the time the movie was released internationally, those that paid attention to the announcement knew that his death would be undone before the end of the movie. On a meta level, given that Wong was only put in the film to offset the criticisms of making the Ancient One white, it's highly unlikely they would then kill him off permanently and make the issue even worse.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • The set photos of Strange and Mordo battling Kaecilius in the streets of New York (many of which look very Narmy out of context and without visual effects) have already become fodder for jokes. Some fans have even edited footage of the airport fight from Captain America: Civil War to include shots of Strange awkwardly prancing about while the other heroes rush into battle.
    • Photos of Benedict Cumberbatch buying Doctor Strange comics while in full costume are making the rounds on message boards, usually captioned along the lines of "You may be cool, but you'll never be Benedict-Cumberbatch-buying-Doctor-Strange-comics-while-dressed-as-Doctor-Strange cool."
    • Doctor Strange's "Teach me" at the end of the trailer is quite memetic. A pretty popular joke with it is pointing out how the Ancient One is Marvel while Doctor Strange is DC, begging to be taught how to make a good movie.
    • "[Dormammu], I've come to bargain" has been a pretty popular saying ever since the movie was released, especially in the context of Marvel Studios attempting to reacquire the film rights to the X-Men and Fantastic Four ("20th Century Fox, I've come to bargain!").Explanation (spoilers) 
    • Ever since Cumberbatch was cast, the joke that he and Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark should have a conversation that results in one saying "No shit, Sherlock." has become rather popular.
    • It's become commonplace that because of Doctor Strange's brief stint of being a Time Master calls forth him setting clocks back an hour for Daylight Savings Time (even Marvel got into it) and becoming friends with Barry Allen.
  • Moe: Oddly enough, the Cloak of Levitation. Many people who saw the movie found it to be adorable.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Kaecilius crosses it when he is fully willing to stab one of his followers just to murder the Ancient One.
    • Mordo stops being able to claim the moral high ground in the second stinger, as soon as he takes Pangborn's magic away. Bear in mind, Pangborn was an innocent person who wasn't doing any harm, simply using his magic and the teachings of the Ancient One to live a normal life despite crippling injuries. And Mordo took all of that away because he feels there are "too many sorcerers." He ruined a man's life because of his personal views on magic.
  • Narm:
    • Stephen's car accident starts off properly visceral and terrifying... But some moviegoers found that it went on for so long and that the car seems to fall from such an absurd height that it crossed over from scary to unintentionally hilarious in a Black Comedy sort of way.
    • The visuals during Strange's initial trip through the multiverse alternate between wondrous, horrifying... and resembling popular Internet memes.
  • Portmanteau Couple Name: Stephenie (Stephen Strange/Christine Palmer) and Strordo (Stephen Strange/Karl Mordo).
  • Rooting for the Empire: At least one review sees Strange as a supervillain while sympathizing with Mordo.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: Near the beginning of the movie, Strange engages in a degree of distracted driving seen in Public Service Announcement advertisements. There is a warning against distracted driving at the end of the credit roll. What keeps this from being Anvilicious is that the consequences — primarily the damage to the driver's hands — drive the plot immediately following the accident in a believable way, and even at the end — after going up multiple ranks on the Super Weight scale — the main character has still not recovered full use of his hands.
  • Spiritual Adaptation: As pointed out here and here by Jeremy Jahns and Couch Tomato respectively, this movie makes a better adaptation of Green Lantern than the 2011 movie.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song: Michael Giacchino's main theme bears quite a similarity to his work on Star Trek (2009).
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: The Ancient One's origins being changed from Tibetan to Celtic has caused no small amount of anger on the Internet, with commenters saying that Marvel, in the pursuit of maximum profits, is trying too hard not to offend the Chinese government and cinema censors. Though once the film came out, the reveal that casting the role as Asian would have meant the film killing off its only Asian character (considering Wong was only put in after this decision was made) in favor of a white guy led some to grudgingly accept it as the least bad option.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • Kaecilius; the prequel comic released before the movie revealed exactly why he wanted to gain access to the Dark Dimension and use the power of Dormammu: to save his family. In the film, however, this is not mentioned; he talks about immortality for everyone, and deliverance from the pain of loss, but without his backstory, his emotional rhetoric holds less weight.
    • The Dread Dormammu is also another case of this. He is constantly hinted at throughout the movie, especially when they mention how corruptive the Dark Dimension is, but he only appears when Strange confronts him through the wormhole in the Hong Kong sanctum. On top of that, Dormammu is made so huge that all we see of him is his head (which unlike the comics is not on fire) and one of his arms (which may or may not be his actual arm, given its size compared to his head). Dormammu also never talks with any of his followers, unlike in the animated movie that predates this one, and he actually did manage to reach our realm in that one as well. However, it is fair to say that the Dormammu of that movie was also a Greater-Scope Villain as well as a Final Boss, similar to the one in this film, but the psychedelic route they went for the effects could have made their conflict even more insane than the animated movie.
    • Christine Palmer doesn't have much of a role in the movie other than as Strange's temporary love interest. Case in point, she doesn't even get to interact with any other characters other than Strange, even though she is directly involved in a few of the movie's major plot points, such as helping Strange to defeat one of Kaecilius's followers in the astral realm and trying to save the Ancient One.
  • This Is Your Premise on Drugs: The visuals of the other dimensions are extremely trippy, to the point that Dr. Strange first asks the Ancient One what was in the tea she served him. Even once he (and the audience) understands what he's looking at, it's still a bit like being trapped in an Escher painting when the walls start folding around.
  • Tough Act to Follow: As the second movie of Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Doctor Strange has to follow the critically-acclaimed Captain America: Civil War. Consensus seems to indicate it's a great film, but not quite the best the MCU has to offer.
  • Unexpected Character:
    • Mads Mikkelsen's character was expected to be an iconic Doctor Strange villain, such as Nightmare or Dormammu. Instead, he's Kaecilius, a servant of Baron Mordo in the comics.
    • Likewise, it was a shock that Rachel McAdams would play Christine Palmer. Many assumed that she would be playing Clea, given the MCU's tendency to use the most iconic Love Interest from the comics.
    • Even though she only appears unidentified in a brief cameo, nobody expected Tina Minoru, a Runaways character (and mother of Nico Minoru), to show up in this movie. Same goes for Daniel Drumm, who is at least tied to the comic book Strange's supporting character Brother Voodoo.
  • Unfortunate Implications: The dispute over Tilda Swinton's casting as the Ancient One drew a lot of criticism after the trailer showed that the character, originally thought to be Race Lifted in order to remove the Magical Asian traits, would still retain them, in effect being similar to Yellowface. It got to the point that co-writer C. Robert Cargill weighed in on this with his personal opinion, saying the Ancient One's casting was "unwinnable" from the beginning, admitting that keeping him Tibetan was never an option since ongoing political conflict between Tibet and China could have seen the movie Banned in China, and that casting an actor or actress from any other Asian ethnic group (specifically citing Michelle Yeoh) opens up a whole other minefield of Unfortunate Implications. Unfortunately this just made things worse in the eyes of many fans including George Takei, who now accuse Marvel of poorly deflecting the criticism rather than owning up and sacrificing values for profits by bowing to such potential pressure from China. As an additional crinkle, the director considered a middle ground changing the character to an Asian woman, but was concerned that would play into another unfortunate trope.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: Needless to say, the effects work for both the magic and alternate dimensions are spectacular. It quickly joined Gravity with numerous people urging that even if you dislike 3D movies, this one should absolutely be seen in the format.
  • What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: Quite a few of the film's visuals are trippy, but the dimension-hopping montage when Strange meets the Ancient One stands out. It's a flurry of warped, colorful universes, featuring images like Strange falling into his own pupil or having hands growing on the ends of his fingers (and the fingers on those hands grow hands, and the fingers on those hands...) and kaleidoscoping from one world to the next so quickly it's nearly impossible to take in what you're seeing. Of course, the original comic itself could get rather trippy as well.
  • Win the Crowd:
    • The release of the image of Benedict in his full Doctor Strange costume did a lot to ease skeptics' minds.
    • So too did the later release of photos featuring Mikkelsen's Kaecilius — the make-up work for his eyes is pure Nightmare Fuel.
    • And the first teaser, which despite some detraction also showed the dedication the film had towards the bizarre and eldritch visuals from the comics, with some added obvious inspiration from Inception.
    • There's a fair amount of buzz on various forums about fans of Marvel Comics not being interested in or fans of Doctor Strange... until they saw this film.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?:
    • The casting of Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One, who is Tibetan in the comics, is hugely divisive. Some people like it for being an interesting new take on the character while others hate it for the same reason. Then you've got people applauding it for using Ability over Appearance/Gender Flip to increase female representation in the MCU, or a good way to avoid the Unfortunate Implications of the original character, while others hate it for considering it a gratuitous Race Lift that whitewashes a member of a heavily underrepresented minority group. The first trailer, which indicated that the Magical Asian traits would remain after all, led to an increase in the latter group.
    • The casting of Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange was itself met with some online backlash from many MCU fans, for two reasons. One is Hype Backlash over Benedict Cumberbatch as an actor (although Kevin Feige has said that they were eyeing him up for the role before he became popular), and the other is ironically the opposite of this trope: when nearly every previous MCU lead was a case of this trope (and received enormous critical acclaim in spite of it), Cumberbatch is viewed as an overly safe, boring choice who will do the role fine but offers nothing interesting to it. Fortunately, when the film was finally released, Cumberbatch's performance won strong praise from critics and audiences alike.
  • WTH, Costuming Department?: Some people assumed that the Ancient One would be Celtic themed since the character herself is Celtic, but were disappointed that the character still dresses like a Tibetan monk.

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