Walt Disney Studios' franchise-collecting habit has brought the company to the point where it owns an alarming number of the biggest movie properties in theaters, and Disney's influence is only set to grow further this year with the return of Star Wars. Disney's biggest box office pull over the past few years, however, has come from Marvel Studios, which will next year debut another standalone superhero story in Doctor Strange.
Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) is set to play the eponymous sorcerer, Doctor Stephen Vincent Strange, who starts out as a surgeon before an accident cripples his hands and leads him to magic and the guidance of the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). Since the initial casting announcement there has been plenty of fan art emerging online, guessing at what Cumberbatch might look like in the role, but now Disney has unveiled the real thing to a select audience at the D23 Expo.
Doctor Strange doesn't start filming until November, but Disney was able to share a sizzle reel of concept art for the movie following a video message from Cumberbatch, who teased that Doctor Strange is about "girls, cars, explosions, and astral projections into multiple universes. The usual fare." The images shown included artwork of Cumberbatch wearing a very traditional version of the Doctor Strange outfit, including the red cape and gray hair at his temples, and laid out a rough sequence of plot events from Doctor Strange's accident, to his search for a healer in foreign lands, all the way to firing energy bolts from his hands. Chiwetel Ejiofor's villain Baron Mordo was also shown in the concept art, locked in battle with Doctor Strange.
Here are some of the live Twitter descriptions from those who were in attendance at D23. The sizzle reel apparently got a very big reaction from the gathered crowd.
Doctor Strange looks insane, shades of Inception and Guardians cosmic visuals.
— Peter Sciretta (@slashfilm) August 15, 2015
DOCTOR STRANGE concept art: Cars levitated into the air; buildings turning over INCEPTION-style, Benedict Cumberbatch in the red cape ...
— Josh Lincoln Dickey (@JLDlite) August 15, 2015
The DOCTOR STRANGE concept art looks otherworldly and very, very trippy. Feige says it will be "as weird as anything we've done." #D23Expo
— Adam B. Vary (@adambvary) August 15, 2015
The concept art for Doctor Strange looks like it came straight from the comics - costume absolutely matches the character #D23Expo
— screenjunkies (@screenjunkies) August 15, 2015
— Ryan Penagos (@AgentM) August 15, 2015
DOCTOR STRANGE concept art had Benedict in the traditional outfit, complete with cape, and even some gray at his temples #D23Expo
— Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) August 15, 2015
Doctor Strange will be directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister) from a script that was originally written by Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer (Conan the Barbarian) before later being revised by Jon Spaihts (Prometheus). Derrickson himself narrated the sizzle reel, explaining that Doctor Strange will have the same origin story that fans of the comic books will be familiar with. According to Vanity Fair, Marvel president Kevin Feige said that Doctor Strange will be "as weird as anything we've done."
Polygon's account of the concept art seems to concur with that claim, describing "some intriguing, physics defying stuff on display, with cities twisted and transformed in scenes that looked straight out of Inception" along with "cars flying through the air in strange helix shapes." Many other people on Twitter were also comparing the concept art to scenes from Inception.
In summary, expect Doctor Strange to be closer to the spirit of Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy, rather than Iron Man or the Captain America movies. Far from trying to mellow the character out, it seems as though Marvel is keen to let Doctor Strange's freak flag fly - cape and all.
Ant-Man is now playing in theaters; Captain America: Civil War opens May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange on November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 on May 5, 2017; Spider-Man reboot on July 28, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok on November 3, 2017; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 on May 4, 2018; Black Panther on July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel on November 2, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 on May 3, 2019; and Inhumans on July 12, 2019.