Prepare your minds to bend along with reality as Doctor Strange finally gets his day on the big screen. The Marvel character is debuting in November on the big screen and expectations are high due to not only the success of recent Marvel movies in the past decade, but also the franchise’s surging popularity on Netflix, the star-packed cast and a team of seasoned filmmakers behind it.
For newcomers to the story of Doctor Strange, the basic story goes like this: Stephen Strange is an arrogant (we are talking Tony Stark arrogant here) neurosurgeon who, after a tragic accident left his hands useless in the operating room, searches the world for a cure only to stumble upon the mystical arts. After becoming a powerful practitioner of magic, Strange takes the role of Sorcerer Supreme, standing between our planet and all of the supernatural threats against it. This film will take place in the same universe as the Avengers films. In addition to these details, here are 15 Things We Know So Far About Doctor Strange.
15. It’s A Mind Trip
If Marvel met The Matrix, it would make a movie much like the Doctor Strange comic, and that is exactly what the filmmakers are promising. Experiencing the film should be nothing less than a mind trip, according to director Scott Derrickson. The Daily Beast has already reported that the film is Marvel’s “trippiest movie yet,” calling the film both “visually dazzling” as well as “ideally viewed on a magic mushroom trip.” The bottom line? Doctor Stranger makes the aliens, ice giants and flying robot suits of previous Marvel films look like everyday park benches and lampposts.
Think it’s too much of a stretch? Doctor Strange has been known to play baseball with demons and talk to a hookah-smoking caterpillar. Although these moments are from some of the more outrageous comics, viewers should still go in to the theater expecting something different from the previous films that they’ve seen from Marvel.
14. Rachel McAdams Is The Night Nurse
Viewers have been enjoying Rosario Dawson’s portrayal of Claire Temple in Netflix’s Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage series, but comic fans know that the four-issue series known as Night Nurse included a trio of night nurses and their various medical dramas and romances. Originally intended to draw in more female readers, the series included a rich young lady named Christine Palmer who wanted to live a life away from her wealthy father. She went to New York and had some adventures as a nurse in the big city. In the Doctor Strange film, Palmer is played by Rachel McAdams.
In the film, Palmer is a former colleague of Strange who is supposed to help him hold onto his humanity. Marvel’s Kevin Feige said they went with her instead of his traditional love interest, the sorceress Clea, because the team “wanted a grounded character… Somebody that could be his anchor to the real world, to his present in the beginning of the film, and by the time he re-encounters her, wearing that, someone who can comment on his transformation as a character.”
Another fun piece of trivia is that McAdams connects both Cumberbatch and Robert Downey, Jr. Fans have been calling for some kind of reference to Sherlock Holmes, whom both actors have played. McAdams played Irene Adler in Downey, Jr.’s version of the eccentric detective, and now she joins Cumberbatch in the Marvel cinematic universe alongside Downey. Tuck that one away for the next round of Six Degrees of Separation.
13. Scott Derrickson’s Goal: To Preserve The Magic
He might be famous for mostly horror films like The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Hellraiser: Inferno, but he is a big fan of Doctor Strange and his horror experience is a good thing. A background in the mysterious and supernatural is sure to give the film the kind of non-cheesy magic it needs. Scott Derrickson says that he grew up reading Doctor Strange comics and loved them dearly. “It was my long standing love for Doctor Strange comes from first of all, the fantastical visual imagery of all the comics, particularly the early Ditko stuff, Into Shamballa, The Oath, a lot of the images that I have picked are from those three sources.” He says he is also attracted to the loneliness that stems from being a character who has experienced trauma and must alternate between dimensions.
When Screen Rant sat down to chat with Derrickson, he told us that he thought it was both his love of the material as well as his interest in the theme of the film that got him the job of directing it. He also praised Marvel, saying that this has been his best experience working on a film yet. Fans should be excited to hear that one of Derrickson’s main objectives was to keep the magic of the series as realistic as possible.
12. Mordo Is No Villain… Yet
Newcomers to Doctor Strange may not know that Baron von Mordo is a major, jealous rival of Doctor Strange in the comics, but it turns out that they may not have to anyway. Kevin Feige says that Chiwetel Ejiofor was specifically chosen for this role because it differs from his character in the comic books. After Mordo advocates for the Ancient One to train Strange, “for this film, he is a partner of Strange, and he is a mentor to Strange.” Feige added that it would have been too obvious to the fans to have the story veer in that direction, and really, how could there even be room with the exposition and development that must happen?
Still, the “for this film” emphasis is noted. Mordo could very well still become a rival of Doctor Strange in future movies. Feige also said that one of the reasons why they cast Ejiofor he possesses a “sort of unbelievable authenticity in delivering a lot of wackadoo lines and exposition.” Anyone who has witnessed the trailers can attest to the actor’s adroit skills in that department so far.
Ejiofor himself says that he sees his character as Strange’s greatest ally. He told Screen Rant, “One of the richest things of this is finding the other space and really trying to create something that’s very three-dimensional and a person who has a real history and a real background and, as in the comics, has a very good relationship with Kamar-Taj and the Ancient One and by extension Strange himself.”
11. It Is Marvel’s Most Supernatural Film To Date
“Shot on the astral plane” is not a phrase relevant to any previous Marvel cinematic universe project, but it completely describes much of Doctor Strange. The film is so bizarre, in fact, that Derrickson expressed concern about being fired over making it. “Someone’s gonna say, it’s too bizarre. It’s too weird. We’re going too far. And I feel as though we crossed a line at some point in the process, which the comics I think were the inspiration to try to go past certain boundaries. But we crossed a line and after crossing that line we just kept going.”
Early looks at the film’s visual elements are nothing short of exciting, filled with Inception-like moments, martial arts, and otherworldly elements. As supernatural as the film is sure to be, however, it still very much exists in the modern world. In one hilarious scene, Strange is passed a slip of paper that simply reads, “Shamballa” in scripted handwriting. When he scoffs, “What is this, my mantra?” Mordo answers, “It’s the wifi password. We’re not savages.”
10. Benedict Cumberbatch is THE Doctor Strange
The rumor of Joaquin Phoenix playing Doctor Strange ran rampant months ago, but fans are now surely well aware that it is Benedict Cumberbatch who will be playing the doctor with “possibility.” Scott Derrickson insisted on Cumberbatch, who took a gap year after school to serve as an English teacher in a Tibetan monastery, for the titular role, and continued to praise the actor long after the movie was made, saying that he endured great physical pain for his stunts. Derrickson said Cumberbatch had “to perform in situations where he is getting hit, getting kicked, being in harnesses, doing very difficult things. It’s unpleasant but he was a total trooper and kept getting better and better as we went along.”
Although early reviews regarding the actor’s performance have been mixed so far, most fans report looking forward to his performance after viewing the trailers. His portrayal seems spot on from what little there is to judge it so far. When Strange retorts that he does not “believe in fairy tales about chakras or energy or the power of belief,” Cumberbatch not only treats the audience to his gruff American accent, but also his disdain for the magical world that is about to become an enormous part of his life. As long as he sticks to the script and doesn’t start doing children’s parties, Cumberbatch should be fine.
9. At Least 10 A-listers Were Considered For The Role Of Strange
Comic books may have once been regulated to the geek squad only, but today superheroes, villains, and all things Marvel are mainstream, making the possibility of portraying anyone in this wildly successful franchise a coveted opportunity. It’s no wonder that more than 10 A-listers threw in their names to play Stephen Strange. Derrickson insists that Cumberbatch was his only serious choice, saying “It’s got to be Benedict” when the actor expressed reluctance to film during the same time he was committed to another role. In fact, it was Cumberbatch’s delayed schedule that pushed the film’s release date back from summer to fall. The actors who vied for the role might have made interesting choices, though.
Lord of the Rings fans could have been picking up their jaws had Viggo Mortensen landed the role, and if Ryan Gosling had played the part, there’d either be “Hey, girl” Doctor Strange memes or videos of Stephen Strange refusing to eat his cereal all over the Internet. Jared Leto was considered at one point, which would have intermarried Marvel and DC once again had he played both Strange and The Joker. It seemed as if Joaquin Phoenix was the final choice for the role; his negotiations ceased just before it was announced that the role definitely belonged to Cumberbatch. Additional contenders included Colin Farrell, Tom Hardy, Ethan Hawke, Jon Hamm, and Johnny Depp.
8. It’s Open For Sequels
While we have no information about the film’s ending yet, we do know that there is plenty of room for sequels just from the fact that the Powers That Be have announced that this film will only touch on Strange’s powers. We will likely be in for a lot of backstory and character establishment in this film, which leaves the door wide open for multiple movies if it does well, making Benedict Cumberbatch a solid member of the Disney team.
With so many different comic avenues to explore, it just makes sense to give Strange several movies. While fans may tolerate Palmer this go around, many will clamor to meet Strange’s wife Clea eventually. Given the different media featuring the Avengers and Iron Fist that have been made or in that are in development, it would be logical to portray Strange’s role in the New Avengers eventually. Strange was an original member of The Defenders, so there could even be a plot based on that to serve as a prequel to the Netflix series. As with the realms that Strange crosses, the possibilities are infinite. Both Strange and Wong are already confirmed to be in the next Avengers film as well.
7. It’s Been A Long Time Coming
Ask Doctor Strange fans how long they’ve been waiting to see the titular character on the big screen and they’ll tell you forever, but the official response is that the movie has been in stages of productions since 1986. That is not to say that this is the first time that Stephen Strange has been in a film at all; on the contrary, there have been several cartoon film appearances as well as a live action TV movie called Dr. Strange starring Peter Hooten. In 1992, the film Doctor Mordrid had originally been based on the Doctor Strange story but it was rewritten due to a license expiration.
After so many different road blocks like the license expiration, it wasn’t until 2005 when Paramount Pictures acquired the rights when production finally seemed to be on track. Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer, writers of Sahara and Conan the Barbarian, were hired to write the story in 2010, but Jon Spaihts was given the task of rewriting it in 2014 when Derrickson came on board as director.
6. Tilda Swinton Is the Ancient One
Between the Ancient One’s female casting, androgyny, and whiteness, there has been controversy surrounding the role. Some fans are upset that the traditionally male role went to Tilda Swinton, while others are disappointed that the character isn’t being played by an Asian actor. When asked about the gender of her character, however, Swinton herself says, “I wouldn’t know how to answer that one. I think it’s all in the eye of the beholder.”
In an exclusive interview, Screen Rant discovered that Swinton is attracted to a certain type of story. “There is I suppose a sort of theme tune which I’m really interested in. I’m really interested in the idea of long, long life and transformation and immortality. So yeah, I’m very much drawn to these stories.”
Despite controversy, the Ancient One is a key character in the comic and the film. In the film’s trailer, when the Ancient One says, “What if I told you the reality you know is one of many?” and offers a magical demonstration. Strange then implores, “Teach me.” This may be the first time that the audience witnesses a true deference toward someone else on Strange’s part in a scene where his wonder and thirst for knowledge finally surpass his own arrogance, directly pointing out the Ancient One’s superior knowledge and experience. Strange remarks that it doesn’t make sense and the Ancient One informs him, “Not everything does. Not everything has to.” Perhaps the simple explanation is meant to be applied toward multiple questions and concerns regarding the film.
5. Michael Giacchino Is In Charge Of The Music
Music is often the most underrated yet integral piece of the film outside of its plot and characters. Without their scores, some of the most breathtaking and memorable films would fade from memory. Michael Giacchino, the composer behind films like Jurassic World and John Carter, created the Doctor Strange score. With both Oscar and Grammy Awards to his name, Giacchino is no stranger to blockbuster movies, and this film’s score is already receiving rave reviews. One states that Giacchino’s music is an “appropriately quirky score, which helps propel the action.”
Derrickson says that he can’t imagine the movie without Giacchino’s work, and that it “does so much more than support the visual images, it adds new, additional layers of meaning and emotion to the film. The ‘Doctor Strange’ theme is memorable, moving and yes, magical.” Giacchino shared the score on his Twitter page earlier this week and it sounds pretty amazing. The full soundtrack will be available for purchase once the movie is released, but it should be fun to hear it alongside the actual film. Giacchino’s work will also soon be featured in Star Wars: Rogue One and The Incredibles 2.
4. Cinematographer Says Strange Is “Marvel’s Fantasia”
No one is arguing that there will be frolicking centaurs or a vengeful Chernabog in Doctor Strange, but cinematographer Ben Davis says that the film will be “Marvel’s Fantasia.” Davis explained, “There’s a lot of pre-visualisation, and there’s a lot of work which is very hard – you look at it and you see the imagery that they’ve created for it and you think, ‘well how the hell do we shoot that!?’ because it’s all sort of Escher stuff.” Davis, who also worked on both the Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Age of Ultron films, emphasized how psychedelic the film is, stressing that it’s quite different from the rest of the films in the Marvel universe.
As long as the movie still has ties to connect it with both the comic and the rest of the MCU, big differences should be quite welcome in a sea of superhero movies. Given that the kind of magic that is utilized in Doctor Strange greatly differs from your typical magic-filled fantasy film, it will have to look different to be a successful film in the first place.
3. Benedict Wong Is A Different Wong
Comic fans may argue that you can’t have Doctor Strange without Wong, but they should be prepared to see a big difference in the cinematic version of the character. For starters, Wong is a Master, not a servant, which is a welcome change in the opinion of most fans. On the set of the film, Marvel president Kevin Feige told Screen Rant that the team has worked very hard to make Wong as authentic to his Marvel character as possible without pushing the whole “white savior” narrative. “He was loyal in the books, and certainly fulfilled a purpose… a stereotype going back to any number of white hero-asian driver, servant. That is not his role in this movie at all.”
He went on to describe the role as, “a racial stereotype. I mean, let’s be blunt about it… So instead of being a sidekick, he’s a master of the mystic arts. Instead of being a manservant, he oversees the library at Kamar-Taj and is an intellectual mentor to Strange. So we kind of flipped everything that he was.” Feige gave fans another hint: every character in this film will be more in the know than they are on the page. Each person is supposedly more talented and knowledgeable, which should be an interesting change to watch on screen.
2. Mads Mikkelsen Plays Kaecilius
This summer’s big Doctor Strange reveal was that Mads Mikkelsen will be bringing villain and former Masters of the Mystic Arts member Kaecilius to life. A powerful sorcerer, Kaecilius became corrupted when he attempted to use access to other dimensions to reunite with his dead family. Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige says, “We’re excited about the villains in this film. We call them the zealots. These are people who become seduced by what they find on the other side.” While early reviews complain that Mikkelsen was underused in the film, they also indicate that his performance itself remains solid.
Mikkelsen says, “Kaecilius is part of this temple. If the majority is looking for the truth here, he’s looking over there for the truth.” When Screen Rant had a chance to speak with him about the role, Mikkelsen said that he truly sees Kaecilius as a heroic figure instead of a villain, as he does with any villain, which helps shine some light on how the actor masters his roles so well in the first place. “The key to any good villain, which I think was very clear from the beginning of this journey, is that they have a point. It’s not completely crazy what they’re saying. That is a point, even in Doctor Strange’s eyes he does believe I have a point, and I think that’s the key for a villain.”
1. Doctor Strange Will Release in 3-D On November 4
Any fan of Doctor Stephen Strange already knows that walking within the multiverse cannot be accomplished in mere two-dimensional entertainment. When the film is in US theaters released on November 4, it will be in 3-D, further enhancing the trippy feel of the movie. Audiences should keep in mind that it is rated PG-13 due to its psychotropic violence. Its run-time comes in just under two hours and there is both a mid and post-credits sequence.
Early reviews have been mostly positive, with Tilda Swinton, Benedict Wong, and Chiwetel Ejiofor receiving the most praise for their performances. Critics are saying that the film’s greatest strengths are what Derrickson worked so hard to preserve: its roots in Marvel’s mysticism and supernatural magic. Possible weaknesses include an underplayed villain and love interest as well as the conundrum of whether or not Cumberbatch fully embodies Strange without seeming too much like Downey Jr.’s self-centered Tony Stark.
Are you looking forward to seeing Doctor Strange? Let us know what you think of the film in the comments.