Superheroes have always been religious. But Marvel’s great, trippy new movie Doctor Strange takes superhero spirituality to the mirror dimension and unfolds it in a dozen fascinating ways. Underneath all the story’s Eastern mysticism and occult trappings, there’s a deeply Christian undercurrent here.
Perhaps we should’ve expected Doctor Strange to be pretty religious. Director Scott Derrickson is one of Hollywood’s best-known and most influential Christians. And Strange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) is an inherently spiritual character: He doesn’t rely on a super-duper strength serum like Captain America or a set of metallic duds like Iron Man. He taps into magic—and magic has always been predicated on tapping unseen realities.But in the movie, Strange initially wants no part of those realities. He’s a gifted, arrogant and wholly atheistic surgeon—a man who mucks around in people’s bodies and brains every day. There’s nothing mystical about the human condition, he believes, nothing spiritual about the soul. We are biological machines, and he’s a well-paid mechanic.
Even when his hands are crushed and he begins to seek avenues of healing outside Western medicine, he rejects any thought that spirituality could be the key to the cure.
“There is no such thing as spirit!” he shouts at his would-be healer known as the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). “We are matter and nothing more!”
He’s wrong. Strange discovers there’s more than matter, more than what science can understand. There’s something else out there. And it’s something beyond imagining.
It’s the same first step of faith that all believers take.
If only the road ahead was easy for us all. (Caution: Spoilers ahead)