The Marvel Studios Panel held at in the famous Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con 2016 gave attendees the chance to see the newest trailer for Doctor Strange, which highlighted just some of the more supernatural elements we can expect to see our titular character learn to deal with when the film arrives in theaters later this year. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange, the trailer set the film up nicely for those not familiar with the Doctor’s story from the comics, and promised a film very different in tone and style from previous movies on the Marvel Cinematic Universe slate.
Cumberbatch was on hand at the Marvel Studios SDCC panel to surprise fans, answer questions and give interviews after the event. During an interview after the panel, the actor explained what he thinks his character can bring to the MCU – “Other dimensions” – as well as what will make his character appeal to audiences.
Stephen Strange is of this world, as Cumberbatch pointed out to EW (speaking after the Marvel panel). Then, through his learning under The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), he discovers realms that he never knew could exist as well as how to harness magical powers and use them for good. As he put it:
“He’s recognizably of our world. He’s rich but he’s not a Stark. His past definitely informs who he is, as it obviously does with Tony Stark. And there’s a rich degree of backstory which I’m sure will just keep coming up through our films and the Avengers as well I guess. But the point is you recognize him hopefully as a trope, a type. Very alpha male, very arrogant. Brilliant at his job, but human. Alone at the top of his castle. It’s very Xandau-like, his life. He’s created a bubble of insularity. This is all about him going from a place where he thinks he knows it all to realizing he knows nothing.”
Adding that the film is ultimately about Stephen Strange’s awakening, Cumberbatch explained that it takes an extreme accident, and the introduction to a magical other dimensional reality, for Strange to discover things about himself that he would never have learned otherwise:
“There’s nothing normal about his character arc in this. By the end of the film, he’s a superhero.”
In many ways, Doctor Strange can be viewed as a standalone film, but it does form the second installment of Marvel’s phase 3, so ultimately, where does Stephen Strange fit within the wider MCU? Here’s what Cumberbatch said:
“He’s kind of an in-brackets ‘defender.’ He hold stuff together in a way that’s not always immediately obvious and doesn’t always involve fighting a lot bad guys and stray bullets. There is that but he kind of tidies up the universe and makes sure nothing breaks through the boundaries.”
Cumberbatch went on to joke that Doctor Strange is more important than all of the Avengers put together. While that’s a point that can be argued back and forth, it’s undeniable that the introduction of Doctor Strange to the MCU will significantly affect future movies, including the Avengers: Infinity War movies (in which Doctor Strange will undoubtedly play a role).
It looks likely, then, that this movie will contain less of the big, explosive action scenes such as those that were seen in Captain America: Civil War, and instead deliver a more mind-bending form of psychedelic magic, as Strange battles his enemies in alternate universes where the laws of physics are not the same as ours. The trailer highlighted these other realms particularly well.
Regarding Cumberbatch’s character, whom he also revealed does fly in the movie, Stephen Strange, it could be argued, shares many of the same personality traits as Sherlock Holmes, another popular character that Cumberbatch portrays. Arrogant, brilliant at his job, but alone at the top of his castle, in a bubble of insularity? Those phrases could certainly be applied to Sherlock, and we certainly know that Cumberbatch can play that type of character very well. Couple his acting skills with the mind-bending special effects seen in the trailer, plus the great glimpses of humor, and Marvel could well have a hit on their hands that will appeal to not only established comic-book movie fans, but regular moviegoers too.
Doctor Strange opens November 4, 2016;Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel– March 8, 2019;Avengers: Infinity War Part 2– May 3, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on July 12, 2019, and on May 1, July 10, and November 6 in 2020.