After wrapping up principal photography on Doctor Strange last week in New York, home of the character and his Sanctum Sanctorum in the comics, Marvel Studios jumped straight into marketing the film. A poster last week was quickly followed by the teaser trailer debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live alongside another new poster and some official photos. And to think, all of that on the same day of the world premiere of Captain America: Civil War!
Needless to say, Marvel movie fans have much to digest with Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicking off in a big way, so let’s take a deeper look at the first Doctor Strange trailer and recap what we know about the film, its characters, and how it may differ from the source material.
Familiar Origin Story
The first teaser trailer for Doctor Strange gets right to the point in focusing on the how of it all. Why would an award-winning, egotistical neurosurgeon – a man of science – find himself traveling the world and falling into sorcery and mysticism?
Just like in the comics and the 2007 animated film, a vehicular incident leaves Stephen Strange without the full use of his hands, meaning he can no longer perform operations. He’s lost his way of living, his career, and is beginning to lose his mind trying to find a way to repair his hands so things can get back to “normal.”
After trying all sorts of known medical procedures to no avail, Strange finds himself desperate, searching the world for anything that could heal his ailment – eventually crossing paths with The Ancient One (more on this character later). The film appears to be following this character journey closely with a few details altered. For instance, it could be Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who discovers Strange and introduces him to The Ancient One. A report from November claims that Strange has an “encounter with magic (and sub-atomic particles)” which leads him on his path to searching for The Ancient One.
Magic vs. Science
The Marvel Cinematic Universe began with Iron Man, with its tech-based hero, and The Incredible Hulk, with its man of science, and before The Avengers assembled, we also met Captain America, period piece soldier, and Thor, the god from Norse mythology. These very different films with very different settings are intentional, as continually emphasized by Marvel Studios president of production Kevin Feige. That helps them pick films to start new franchises, like the cosmic-set pulpy sci-fi adventure Guardians of the Galaxy or the family-focused heist movie Ant-Man.
But where Thor introduced us to other realms of the MCU, and where Guardians of the Galaxy took us to space, Doctor Strange opens up another sector of the universe: magic and alternate realities. This is shown both in the character journey of the titular hero and in the Inception-esque visuals. Strange will go from being a man of science and logic, to a believer…
“I don’t believe in fairy tales about chakras or energy or the power of belief.”
Rachel McAdams was confirmed to be playing the female lead of Doctor Strange back in September but details on her character have remained sparse at best. One rumor pointed towards McAdams playing a version of Night Nurse from Marvel Comics, specifically Christine Palmer, but nothing official has been confirmed on this front. According to Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige:
“Rachel McAdams plays a fellow surgeon that has a history with Strange and is his sort of lynchpin to his old life, once he steps into he role of a sorcerer. She is someone he connects with at the beginning, and reconnects with, and helps anchor his humanity.”
And that’s all we see of her in the trailer, helping roll an injured Strange into an operating room after his car crash. The real question is how the character will be presented compared to other female leads in past MCU movies. Is McAdams’ character just another off-to-the-side love interest? Will she become a damsel in distress?
The Ancient One
Before Doctor Stephen Vincent Strange became the Sorcerer Supreme, there was his mentor, The Ancient One. A Tibetan born man from centuries prior, this character in the comics trained Baron Mordo before later training Strange as well. In the MCU, the Ancient One title is held by a different character – a bald Tilda Swinton. Wise and powerful, The Ancient One has not only mastery over what we consider to be magic, but knowledge of other dimensions, other realities.
“You’re a man looking at the world through a keyhole. You’ve spent your life trying to widen it. Your work saved the lives of thousands. What if I told you that reality was one of many?”
“There are other ways to save lives, so much you don’t know.”
Magic is cool, but alternate realities might be even cooler. The way the Doctor Strange teaser trailer is edited, it leads viewers to believe that what we literally see could be different in another reality. Stephen Strange lost the full use of his hands in the Marvel Cinematic Universe we’ve known since 2008, but what if there’s a window – or better yet – a way to to travel back and forth between other realities where that car accident didn’t happen, where Strange is still a rich egotistical jerk?
This movie opens the MCU up to that possibility, even if it’s little more than an idea that’s teased, the logical next step of this concept is a plot device that allows Marvel to do anything in the future. Do you miss Quicksilver from Avengers: Age of Ultron? What if there’s an alternate reality that these movies can explore in a few years where he’s still an Avenger?
Doctor Strange was first introduced in 1963’s “Strange Tales” #110, where one of its stories saw the character projecting his consciousness as an astral form outside of his physical body. Strange has practiced and mastered this metaphorical level of existence ever since, and in Marvel Comics, the astral plane has been a common element in stories involving psychic characters. In a way, it’s another reality.
This plane of existence is shown in one key sequence in the teaser trailer when The Ancient One literally pushes Strange out of his body, seemingly realizing him in his astral form. It might be this moment that breaks the character out of his old ways of thinking.
When Chiwetel Ejiofor was cast as Baron Mordo it was believed he would be the villain of Doctor Strange as he is in the source material, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. Marvel has changed up the overly-obvious betrayal by Mordo (even his name sounds evil) or perhaps is saving that for later (Doctor Strange 2!).
Instead, we see Mordo side-by-side with Strange in all of the set photos during production – from before he begins practicing magic to when Strange becomes the Sorcerer Supreme – including the final scenes shot in New York last week just before principal photography wrapped.
The Actual Mysterious Villain
The antagonist character played by Mads Mikkelsen hasn’t been revealed yet by Marvel Studios but we do have a good idea of who he is, and no, he’s not Dormammu (a popular high profile Doctor Strange villain in Marvel Comics). Although it’s entirely possible Mikkelsen’s strange-eyed magic user works for or is allied with Dormammu, we believe he’s playing Kaecilius.
In the books, Kaecilius is a very, very minor character who serves Baron Mordo as his disciple/field agent and his name only popped up in association with the film when a report from November claimed that the film may open with a little prologue scene set in 1968 in Kathmandu (the capital of Nepal) where there are “Zealots of dark magic” opening a portal to another dimension where Kaecilius is inroduced. That’s a rumor at this point and even if it’s true, it could be a different character.
According to Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige:
“Mads’ character is a sorcerer who breaks off into his own sect. [He] believes that the Ancient One is just protecting her own power base and that the world may be better off if we were to allow some of these other things through.”
Cloak of Levitation
Doctor Strange’s first trailer successfully lives up to its description as a “teaser” or sneak peek since there’s not one full, clean shot of Benedict Cumberbatch as the Sorcerer Supreme, using powers, using the Eye of Agamotto (the amulet on his chest), battling villains, or of course, defying the physics of our reality with the Cloak of Levitation.
Similar to the imagery of the first Doctor Strange teaser poster, the final shot of the teaser trailer features Cumberbatch in full costume walking up the steps of the Sanctum Sanctorum, and he’s rocking the red Cloak of Levitation. This mystical item allows its user to not only hover and fly (albeit not too fast), but it can be controlled even when not worn. Think of it as a character in and of itself. The design in the teaser as Strange walks up the stairs is asymmetrical, as emphasized in set photos for the film.
Home to Doctor Strange in Marvel Comics and based in New York like so many other heroes, the Greenwich Village townhouse has also served as the base of operations for several superhero team-ups including the original Defenders and the New Avengers. The iconography of the Sanctum Sanctorum (that big round logo) has been ever present in the concept art and marketing materials of Doctor Strange and the teaser gave us a little sneak peek inside as he walks up the steps at the end of the video.
The specific location of the Sanctum Sanctorum holds a deeper meaning in the comics, where it’s connected to magical energies in the Earth. Whether that plot element finds itself into the MCU or not remains to be seen. Like Odin’s vault room on Asgard from the Thor movies, the Sanctum houses Occult Artifacts so expect there to be Easter Eggs in Doctor Strange.
Exactly one year ago to the very day of the Doctor Strange teaser trailer release, we reported an interview with Kevin Feige shortly after Benedict Cumberbatch was officially cast where the character’s accent was discussed. At the time, Feige said they hadn’t actually talked about it yet.
“It’s a good question. We have not discussed the accent with him yet, but he’s Benedict Cumberbatch, so I think he can do anything we ask him.”
Of course, we now know for certain that Doctor Strangein the MCU will speak with an American accent despite having a British star, despite the film shooting primarily in London, and despite there being no other lead British actors in the MCU (yet). Maybe there is some truth to that recent Captain Britain TV series rumor…
That Movie Logo
No, we’re not talking about the Marvel logo or the Sanctum Sanctorum symbol. Just as Baron Mordo is walking Stephen Strange into their place of magic (temple?) to meet The Ancient One, director Scott Derrickson intentionally include a bird’s-eye view shot of the logo on the ground surface, a large circle where inside of it we see squares inside of squares. Maybe it’s nothing, but artists designed it that way for a reason, and it’s shown in the trailer for a reason. Perhaps it’s symbolic of the alternate realities?
Or perhaps its a nod to production company Silver Pictures (The Matrix movies) since the very next sequence features a very Matrix-esque martial arts training sequence between The Ancient One (read: Morpheus) and Strange (read: Neo) taking place in a very similar environment.
Below is the official synopsis, cast list, alongside release dates of the rest of Phase 3 (including the new official title of the Spidey reboot). Share your thoughts, theories, and observations about the Doctor Strange teaser trailer in the comments!
In Doctor Strange, famous neurosurgeon Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) suffers career-ending injuries in a devastating car crash. Seeking help in the furthest reaches of the world, Strange uncovers the hidden world of magic and alternate dimensions! Witness the powerful doctor in the poster above.
Doctor Strange, starring Benedict Cumberbatch (Black Mass, The Imitation Game), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, The Martian), Rachel McAdams (Southpaw, Sherlock Holmes) and Michael Stuhlbarg (Steve Jobs, A Serious Man) with Mads Mikkelsen (Clash of the Titans, Casino Royale) and Academy Award winner Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton, The Grand Budapest Hotel). The film is directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) and produced by Kevin Feige with Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Charles Newirth, Stephen Broussard and Stan Lee serving as executive producers.
Captain America: Civil War opens in theaters on May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018;Ant-Man and the Wasp– July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans– July 12, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on May 1, July 10 and November 6, 2020.