You can't call it shocking, but it's certainly a confirmation many Marvel fans have been holding their breath for. After weeks of being rumored as Marvel's frontrunner, the studio has announced that Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, Star Trek Into Darkness) will star in Doctor Strange.
The announcement from Marvel comes not long after Cumberbatch emerged as one actor on Marvel's shortlist for the 'Sorcerer Supreme,' before it was reported that he had entered final talks for the role. Since then, any additional details have been hard to come by (not surprising, since actors up for the part in the past eventually stepped aside). Now, the casting announcement brings with it additional details about Doctor Strange, further teasing his role in Marvel's growing movie universe.
According to the official statement, the plot of the film will adhere quite closely to expectations: Stephen Strange, a brilliant neurosurgeon who suffers the loss of his talents in a horrific car accident, setting him on a path to not only discover the mystical forces and parallel dimensions that exist behind the everyday world - but master them.
Marvel movie boss Kevin Feige offered a personal endorsement of Cumberbatch's talents, and why he's the kind of actor they had in mind for a character expected by many to take on a leading role in the years to come:
"Stephen Strange’s story requires an actor capable of great depth and sincerity... In 2016, Benedict will show audiences what makes Doctor Strange such a unique and compelling character."
Few will disagree with Feige's sentiments, as Cumberbatch has churned out numerous acclaimed roles in recent years (typically found outside the realm of blockbusters). His experience playing something of a villain will also come in handy; those who have watched Marvel's animated Doctor Strange film (which we continue to recommend for those unfamiliar with the character) know that Stephen Strange begins his journey as... less than heroic.
It's only when tragedy strikes that Strange is forced to re-evaluate his life, and just how he has misused his talents and intellect. From there his destiny lies in the magical energies, dimensions, and realms that permeate the universe - and in a Marvel Cinematic Universe that is quickly broadening beyond Earth, or even the known universe, a figure with that kind of experience will be needed before long.
With filming on Doctor Strange set to begin in May 2015, the project now has a director in Scott Derrickson (Sinister), a script being re-written by Jon Spaihts (Prometheus), and a leading man likely to attract attention outside of Marvel's core audience. Recent reports have also hinted that Daniel Bruhl (Inglourious Basterds, Rush) - set to appear in Captain America: Civil War - will play a minor role in his first appearance, before taking on a larger, villainous one in Doctor Strange.
It's also worth noting that Cumberbatch's official addition to the Marvel family is likely to fuel speculation that Robert Downey, Jr.'s time as the undisputed face of the Marvel universe may be coming to an end. That isn't to say that the actor will be removed from the film universe as a whole (having teased several more appearances), but with Stephen Strange and Black Panther on the way, Marvel's writers will have two more powerful, commanding leaders to choose from going forward.
What do you make of the casting? Are you relieved to see Cumberbatch officially land the role, or was there another actor in the running you hoped to see sign on? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Doctor Strange hits theaters on November 4, 2016.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce for Doctor Strange updates as well as movie, TV and gaming news.