[Warning: This article contains potential spoilers for Doctor Strange.]
It’s difficult to believe that we are less than a month away from the cinematic debut of Doctor Strange. On October 10, I was privileged to have the chance to sit in a beautiful IMAX theater, don my theater-specific 3D glasses, and watch a 15-minute highlight reel of the next Marvel spectacle. Here’s what I learned about the movie:
5. Stephen Strange is a Very Interesting Character
Early in the footage, we got to see a pretty substantial amount of dialog between Christin Palmer (Rachel McAdams) and Stephen Strange (Benjamin Cumberbatch) in the hospital where they both work. It is clear that the two have dated at the starting point in the movie. She is clearly a close friend to a very successful Dr. Stephen Strange. It is clear that Strange regards himself as the very best at what he does. However, he is most certainly the a**-hole from the comic books and Cumberbatch plays the character perfectly. On his way to a black-tie event where he will be speaking, he receives a call and asks “What do you have for me?” He very calmly listens to a couple of stories about people who very much need his help and he rejects them without hesitation. He hears about a Marine Corps officer who’s been through a tragic war accident and without thinking twice says, “I could do that. So could 50 other people. Give me something worth my time.”
4. The Ancient One, Mordo, and Wong are Awesome
There was a strong showing of the secondary characters in this footage. The Ancient One is unphased by Strange’s attitude or rudeness. She doesn’t hesitate to quickly put him in his place. Wong didn’t get a ton of screentime in this set of footage, but it is clear that he is not to be messed with. He interacts with Strange in a room that seems to be a library for books about the mystic arts. It seems like Strange was sent there to pick up a very specific set of books and when he starts wandering and trying to look through the more advanced material, Wong makes it clear that he is the guardian of these sacred books and that, should a book be stolen, it would not make it off of the compound before the thief were dead. Baron Mordo seems to be the most off-course from his comic book roots. There’s not a ton of dialog shared between Strange and Mordo. While it’s clear that he plays the right-hand role of The Ancient One, he spends most of his time in combat beside Doctor Strange. I wouldn’t be surprised if that changes late in the movie, but for now the two will be fighting together.
3. This Movie is Straight Out of Ditko’s Imagination
When it was announced that Scott Derekson would be directing Doctor Strange, I completely expected the idea of villainous dimensions to look more Insideous than Strange Tales #110. I couldn’t have been more wrong, though. This movie finds itself being made in an era unlike any other and, for the first time, we actually have all the tech to pull off the classic imagery of Steve Ditko on the big screen. This is very telling because it means that Doctor Strange will feel and look different from the rest of the MCU. It shows how variance will be a priority as the MCU moves forward, honesty to characters and a vast array of creative directions for the MCU.
4. Magic Isn’t Scientific, but It Is Grounded
The MCU has a history of grounding itself in science. It explains things like Thor’s hammer, super soldier serum, and the Mind Stone with science so that it feels like possible science-fiction. There was some concern that as they took the plunge into the realm of Strange, that they would continue in that groundwork. It is clear now that they are taking a mystical approach. However, as an art, it does feel grounded. It’s not open-ended and unbelievable. They have books for themselves. They have struggle and mastery. They won’t simply leave the door open to just call things ‘magic’; they will be setting rules for themselves and following them.
5. Study and Practice
My favorite thing about seeing this footage is that, even though it is a true origin story, it will not simply be a “click your fingers and now you’re a superhero” type of cookie-cutter origin story. The story will take place over many years. Stephen Strange will read a library of books and dedicate his life to practicing this art. It’s an exciting premise because of how much time has passed in the MCU and how it fits into the larger picture will not be left unaddressed. Additionally, this practice and struggle journey to mastery will make for a very exciting arch for Stephen Strange over this movie and throughout his time in the MCU.
It is hard to believe that Doctor Strange will come to life on the big screen in only a few short weeks. It is clearer than ever that the fans and the MCU are both ready for it. Catch all of the magic of the mystic arts and the Sourcerer Supreme in theaters on October 26 in the U.K. and on November 4 in the U.S.