This year’s San Diego Comic Con promised to deliver the goods and it certainly delivered. SDCC was so huge this year that the debut of a brand new Doctor Strange trailer wasn’t even top-tier news, but it should be, since the movie is fast approaching. After the August debut of Suicide Squad, November’s Doctor Strange movie will be the last big comic book adaptation of 2016.
Doctor Strange is one of Marvel’s premiere characters, but he’s always been perceived as a little too psychedelic to be able to headline a high-profile film. There was a made-for-television Dr. Strange pilot in 1978, during CBS’s time with the Marvel license. While it was considered to be a stronger effort than its ill-advised contemporaries, Spider-Man and Captain America, Dr. Strange couldn’t hold a candle to The Incredible Hulk, and CBS decided against turning the pilot into a weekly series.
Now, armed with the production values of a mega-budget Hollywood blockbuster in the 21st century, hopes are high that Doctor Strange will blow our minds and then some, stay true to the comics, and tell an original story within the context of the MCU. Here’s 15 Things We Want From The Doctor Strange Movie.
15. The First Step In The New MCU
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is an unprecedented movie franchise, a franchise which just shattered its status quo (though not irreparably) with this year’s Captain America: Civil War. While Doctor Strange is the start of a new franchise for Marvel, it’s also going to be the 14th entry in a film continuity which goes all the way back to 2008’s Iron Man.
Doctor Strange is the first story after the official “break-up” of The Avengers team and, even though we’re fully expecting the film to be more-or-less self-contained, it also has a responsibility to show how the world has changed in the aftermath of Civil War. Ant-Man toed the line between fitting in with the MCU and telling its own action-adventure story, and we have high hopes that Doctor Strange will similarly be capable telling an accessible story for general audiences while also pushing the universe forward in the slow march towards Infinity War.
14. Make Stephen Strange Unique From Tony Stark
Since Captain America: Civil War ended The Avengers as we know them (for now), Stephen Strange is the first hero we’re meeting who has no connection to that core group of superheroes, not including The Guardians of the Galaxy, but they’re still too far out in space to be relevant to the terrestrial parts of the Marvel Universe.
The biggest fear with regards to the prospective character arc of Stephen Strange is that he’s just Tony Stark, if Tony was a surgeon instead of an engineer. They both start off as arrogant and cocksure narcissistic geniuses with alcohol problems, but after being put through an ordeal and emerging on the other side, they adopt new philosophies of heroism and protection of the innocent. The fact that English star Benedict Cumberbatch is adopting an American accent, as well as the two characters’ similar facial hair, only makes this more of a concern for the fandom.
Our hope is that Strange becomes more of a cosmic God-like protector with the wisdom to match, rather than Tony Stark, who, even after successfully privatizing world peace, still remains a jerk. An enjoyable and highly watchable jerk, but a jerk nonetheless. We especially hope that, once the characters inevitably share the screen in The Avengers: Infinity War, someone points out the many superficial similarities between their characters, to comic effect.
13. Don’t Totally Rip-Off Inception
In the film’s trailers, we’ve seen some action that is operating on a whole other level from what we’ve seen in previous MCU films. Even Ant-Man at its most vibrant simply can’t compete with city blocks folding in on each other like some wild combination of The Matrix and Inception… That being said, we certainly hope that Doctor Strange’s action and special effects aren’t just carbon copies of The Matrix and Inception, because that would be lacking in the innovation that led to Marvel earning the reputable nickname, “The House of Ideas.”
Marvel’s films have taken some criticism for their formulaic approach to climactic action sequences, so if Doctor Strange wants to stand apart, it needs to strike out in a new direction. If the action in the film is too much like Inception, audiences will doubtless take notice, and Marvel will find itself in hot water with the fandom. Still, we have faith that Marvel knows what the fans want to see and that they can deliver that while also mixing things up with unforeseen surprises.
12. Context For Controversial Whitewashing
Much was made of Doctor Strange’s whitewashing of The Ancient One and moving the character’s base of operations from Tibet to Nepal, and justifiably so; most fans are more-or-less comfortable with the casting of the extremely talented Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, and many don’t even mind changing the character’s race, but moving the setting from the hotly-contested Tibet to the less culturally volatile Nepal can only be seen as a move of appeasement towards China.
China claims ownership over Tibet, something that the Dali Lama and his supporters fervently oppose. Without getting too deep into the controversial realm of international politics, the fact that Tibet will not be featured in the film will make it much easier to get past China’s notoriously strict state-run censors.
The film can mitigate some of the public relations damage incurred by the whitewashing scandal by explaining The Ancient One’s origins. They’ve already said that Ancient One is a title which is passed on from master to student, which explains why Tilda Swinton is playing a centuries-old character in Asia. As for the new location, even just a simple line of dialogue saying that the first Ancient One was Tibetan would go a long way towards mending the damage caused by the shift in setting.
11. Fix Marvel’s Perceived Villain Problem
Many detractors of Marvel Studios, and even many fans, have suggested that Marvel has a crippling villain problem. Indeed, characters like Malekith, Anton Vanko, and Ronan the Accuser failed to leave much of an impression of audiences, but we’d like to offer a different perspective on the accusation. Marvel doesn’t have a “villain proble,” rather, it chooses to focus on its heroes, and places villains in the films more as obstacles and plot devices, than as fully-formed characters themselves. It’s kind of the opposite of the approach taken in most of the Batman movies, but it’s been working for Marvel so far. Plus, to be fair, they’ve also featured strong standout villains like Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki.
We don’t know if Mads Mikkleson’s version of Kaecilius will be enough to change the status quo of MCU villains, but we’re more interested in Baron Mordo; traditionally a villain, the version to be played by Chiwetel Ejiofor appears as an ally and fellow student to Stephen Strange. We’re hoping that the character slowly transitions from hero to villain, not unlike Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight, offering fans a complex character arc of how a good man goes bad, without the intervention of secret loyalties to societies like Hydra or The Hand.
10. The Dark Dimension
One of the most tantalizing teases about the Doctor Strange movie is that it will, in some capacity, feature the Dark Dimension, home to one of Doctor Strange’s most powerful enemies, Dormammu. In the comics, Dormammu is one of the most powerful figures in the entire Marvel canon and rules the Dark Dimension along with his sister, Umar.
While we don’t expect Dormammu to dominate the action of this film, we wouldn’t be surprised to discover that he may be pulling strings behind the scenes, or that he may even be in league with Thanos or Loki, as part of some long-term plan to conquer more and more worlds. Baron Mordo is often seen as a Lieutenant to Dormammu, so if Mordo slowly slips into villainy as the film goes on, perhaps it could be a direct result of Dormammu’s dastardly intervention.
Whatever the case may be, Dormammu is a huge villain for Strange to face, especially in his first movie, but we’re certain that it’s just a matter of time before the demonic conqueror will reveal himself to be a huge and important villain in the MCU.
9. Bring “Strange” To The MCU
The MCU is not stale, nor has it fallen into a rut, but many of the films, particularly those in Phase 2, were accused of lacking visual punch. There were only so many third-act aerial battles we could sit through before getting bored with tired spectacle, though, to their credit, Marvel Studios took notice. Ant-Man famously inverted the scale of its final battle, which was set entirely in a little girl’s suburban bedroom. Similarly, Captain America: Civil War opted against pitting The Avengers against a massive CGI army (as had been done in both Avengers films), and instead had them fight each other, culminating in the gripping and emotional two-on-one battle of Captain America and Bucky versus Iron Man.
Now that we’ve seen MCU finales go big, go small, and go intimate, we want for Doctor Strange to go… Well, strange. Guardians of The Galaxy was weird, sure, but we’re talking more along the lines of a vividly 1960s psychedelic aesthetic. The possible applications of sorcery and magic in imaginative action sequences are endless, and that’s what we want from Doctor Strange: imagination, the unexpected, and the downright impossible. The MCU has always adhered to its own internal logic, and we’re looking forward to Doctor Strange completely demolishing our preconceptions of what is logically possible. After all, subverting logic is what magicians do.
8. Rachel McAdams: Love Or Friendship?
Rachel McAdams (Spotlight) will be starring in Doctor Strange as Christine Palmer, a relatively minor character in the comics and one who never actually co-starred along the comics version of Doctor Strange. In the film, she is described as Strange’s friend and main connection to his past life as a superstar surgeon.
Clea, Strange’s usual romantic muse from the comics, seems to be absent from the film, so the question is whether Palmer will be a romantic interest for Cumberbatch’s Strange, or if she will play the rare-in-Hollywood role of a woman who is friends with a man without being romance. Marvel has had its fair share of half-baked romances (Thor & Jane Foster), but they’ve also done well with male/female relationships in Ant-Man, the stranded-across-time Peggy Carter/Steve Rogers tragic romance, and the ever-developing relationship between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, to say nothing of the greatest platonic friendship of them all, that between Black Widow and Hawkeye. We’re not objecting to a Strange/Palmer romantic pairing, but if it’s pointlessly tacked-on, the fans will see right through it. There’s no room for half-baked romance; it must be real or else it’s a waste of the audience’s time. The male-female friendship dynamic is much less explored in blockbuster cinema, so we’d prefer to see a new twist on that concept rather than another Stark/Potts scenario.
7. The MCU’s Version Of Harry Potter
Doctor Strange is set to release on November 4th, 2016. Just two weeks later, on November 18th, we will see the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the first in a proposed Harry Potter spin-off trilogy. They’re not exactly the same, of course, but Doctor Strange is probably the closest Marvel Studios can get to having its own version of Harry Potter.
Hidden just behind the facade of reality lies a world of magic and adventure: seemingly normal people are capable of casting great and powerful spells by saying funny phrases like “By the Eye of Agamotto” or “Alohomora.” Dumbledore is basically Tilda Swinton with a beard: the powerful boss of a secret society who teaches people how to use ancient power to bend the fabric of reality to their will.
We’re looking forward to the rival fandoms throwing shade on each other, choosing sides, and picking favorites. On the other hand, we can’t wait for fanart of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange alongside Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander sharing drinks.
6. A Breakout Role For Scott Adkins
Scott Adkins has a dedicated following for his impressive martial arts skills and roles in combat-themed action movies, most of which are straight-to-video and generally unremarkable aside from Adkins’s incredible fighting prowess. General audiences probably know him best as Jean-Claude Van Damme’s lieutenant, Hector, in The Expendables 2, who memorably fights Jason Statham in hand-to-hand combat and is ultimately reduced to chunky giblets by a helicopter’s tail rotor.
We don’t know the details of Adkins’s role in Doctor Strange, but if we had to guess, we’d dare to infer that it will involve lots of excellently choreographed high kicks. In fact, this won’t be Adkins’s first role in a superhero film. He previously had a small, but show-stopping, role in the oft-maligned X-Men Origins: Wolverine. His face isn’t seen since the character is mutilated beyond recognition, but Adkins plays Weapon XI, AKA Deadpool, the severely mutated abomination that once was Wade Wilson. Ryan Reynolds provides his face for close-ups, but the high kicks and acrobatic leaps? That’s all Scott Adkins, the cinema’s most under-appreciated ass-kicker.
5. A Mix Of Humor And Drama
Marvel’s movies are fun, to the praise of general audiences and to the derision of a small sub-group of outspoken internet commenters. Even when the stakes are at their highest and the tension is palpable, The Avengers are always game to bicker, deliver silly one-liners, and otherwise keep the tone from getting overly grim. The best prank Marvel ever pulled was with the marketing for Iron Man 3, which set audiences up for a dark and gritty take on the character before pulling the rug out from under them with one of the funniest (and best) movies of 2013, all that #NotMyMandarin ballyhoo notwithstanding.
We’re looking forward to Doctor Strange delivering the same winning formula of world-ending stakes and deep character drama, with peppy dialogue and tap-dancing comedic scenarios interspersed at every opportunity, but in a new setting of magic and sorcery. Maybe Thor: The Dark World erred a little bit too far on the side of being an outright comedy, but it’s balance that is key. We would like to think that Marvel Studios has what it takes to know how funny each movie needs to be without overshadowing the main story.
4. The Sanctum Sanctorum
Doctor Strange hangs his cape in the Sanctum Sanctorum, located in Greenwich Village, New York City’s most iconic district… Or, at least it was. Back in the day, The Village was the home of the folk music scene, and the birthplace of the Gay Rights movement at the Stonewall Inn. This was the culture of magic and righteousness that made it the perfect home for the Sorcerer Supreme, a place where someone as atypical and outside of the norm as Stephen Strange can exist without being labeled as a freak or a weirdo. In the 21st century, the common folk of Manhattan have been driven out by gentrification and skyrocketing rents. These days, the night life of The Village is dominated by drunken bar-hopping college kids from NYU who puke their guts out on the sidewalk after participating in obnoxious bar crawls and pick fights with their Uber drivers every weekend.
But I digress. Like Falcon tells Captain America about getting a place in Brooklyn in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, “Home is home.” Times have changed for Greenwich Village since Doctor Strange’s debut in 1963, but for Strange to live anywhere else but Downtown Manhattan would be a disservice to the character, like making The Ancient One live somewhere else other than in the mountains of Tibet… Oops.
3. Frame Sorcery and Magic Within The Logic of The MCU
Doctor Strange won’t be the first time the Marvel Cinematic Universe has dabbled with supernatural and otherworldly elements. The Thor films have framed what we perceive as magic and mythology as the impossibly complex science of an advanced alien race. Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster quotes the great sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke when she says, “Magic is just science we don’t understand yet.”
We expect that the magic and sorcery in Doctor Strange will involve the science fiction elements we’ve already seen in the MCU. We fully expect the Quantum Realm from Ant-Man to be key to the audience understanding and accepting Doctor Strange’s version of magic. “Abracadabra” doesn’t really cut it when it comes to verisimilitude in these movies. Like we mentioned before, each MCU film must follow the same internal logic of the film universe. Strange’s sorcery will more-than-likely entail learning how to control that logic and subvert it to create what can only be described as “magic.”
2. Marvel’s Most Visually Stylish Movie Yet
We’re almost certain that tapping into the Quantum Realm will be important to magic use in Doctor Strange, and fans of Ant-Man will recall that Scott Lang’s detour into the depths of the Microverse provided some of the MCU’s trippiest and most psychedelic imagery to date. It seems like Doctor Strange will be using Ant-Man’s Quantum Realm scene as a starting point for some truly magnificent visuals that will eclipse even Inception, to which some shots in the trailers have been compared.
Additionally, we’ve been teased with some truly magnificent images, like The Ancient One punching Strange’s spirit completely out of his body (or at least that’s what it looks like), and the use of some Mortal Kombat-esque portals to “travel great distances in an instant.” We’re sure that the movie has lots of unique visual surprises in store for us and that it will set a benchmark for special effects that subsequent Marvel movies may have a tough time surpassing… Until Doctor Strange 2, perhaps.
1. Can Strange Undo Property Damage?
One of the more fascinating shots in the SDCC trailer showed broken buildings being reassembled while a fully costumed Doctor Strange was engaging in close-quarters fisticuffs. It’s a cool special effect, and one which stands out, even among the kaleidoscopic images of city streets folding and shifting like a Rubik’s Cube.
Is Strange performing this feat himself? If so, is he literally repairing buildings or is he altering time to undo the damage? Or perhaps he is merely conjuring some type of optical illusion. If he can literally undo the damage done to buildings, he would prove an invaluable asset to the efforts of The Avengers. That being said, we would be kind of disappointed if property damage were to be made even more meaningless than it usually is in these types of films, to the point where an entire film, Civil War, had to be made to rectify the oversight.
If he can repair damage, can he revive the dead? That seems unlikely and it would make him a little too over-powered for our liking. Is the Time Stone involved? We have so many questions, and we can’t wait for November to have them answered!
Are you excited for Doctor Strange? What would you like to see in the movie? Who would you like to see in a sequel? Sound off in the comments below!