Such famous Marvel comic book stories as "Civil War" and "Infinity War" are going to be explored on the big screen in Phase III of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Similarly, several Marvel Comic characters will be making their big screen debut as part of the MCU beginning in 2016, with Black Panther/T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Tom Holland) being the first thanks to the roles they will play in Captain America: Civil War.
Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) will thereafter headline his own solo Marvel Studios film in Doctor Strange, with the project's impressive supporting cast now confirmed to include Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Rachel McAdams. Marvel Studios President of Production Kevin Feige has further confirmed that Doctor Strange will be an origin story for the title character - which he states is a good thing - and offered some food for thought regarding the movie's supporting cast.
Feige spoke with IGN during a promotional event for the Avengers: Age of Ultron Blu-ray release, at which time the producer - who is now Marvel Studios' 'top dog' after a change in the company's high-ranking personnel - explained why Doctor Strange should be an origin story:
"For some reason people sometimes talked about how we're not doing an origin story, we're bored of origin stories. I think people are bored of origin stories they've seen before or origin stories that are overly familiar. Doctor Strange has one of the best, most classic, most unique origin stories of any hero we have, so why wouldn't we do that? That was sort of always the plan. How you tell that origin, perhaps there are ways to twist it or play with that, but for the most part, it's a gift when the comics have something with such clarity of story and of character. That doesn't always happen in the comics, and when it does, you use it."
Doctor Strange will introduce the concepts of magic and mysticism as they exist in the MCU (building on the foundation laid by previous Marvel films), while at the same time also examining how Stephen Strange evolves from being an ordinary (though arrogant) surgeon to becoming the Sorcerer Supreme. This will also pave the way for Strange to join forces with Earth's Mightiest Heroes down the line, once Thanos' (Josh Brolin) hunt for the Infinity Stones comes to a head in Avengers: Infinity War - Part 1 & 2. An origin story seems a fitting way to get started, as Feige notes.
At the same time, there is reason to be concerned that the imaginative Doctor Strange mythos will be reshaped too much fit the Marvel Studios movie mold. After all, the brunt of criticism directed at Ant-Man focused on how its clever heist genre ingredients were saddled with a formulaic origin narrative - though the movie was a critical/commercial success, on the whole. Superhero origin story fatigue does appear to be setting in a bit regardless, so it's encouraging to hear Feige indicate Doctor Strange will aspire to put a creative spin on the narrative format (meanwhile, the 2017 Spider-Man solo film reboot will forgo its namesake's over-done origin story altogether).
Viewers will be introduced to the MCU's magical side primarily through Strange's perspective, as Feige confirmed to IGN; at the same time, the producer said McAdams' character will "to a certain extent" help moviegoers become acquainted with the film's new realms:
"She plays a very, very big part in the movie and represents a certain point of view of the worlds that we experience in that movie, but Doctor Strange, without a doubt, is the character we follow through the movie."
The popular theory is that McAdams will play Clea - mistress of the Dark Dimension and pupil/lover to Strange after he becomes the Sorcerer Supreme - in the Doctor Strange movie, though this has yet to be confirmed. Feige's comments seem to lean in that direction too, though at the same time they are certainly open to interpretation.
Furthermore, it's already been reported that the film's revised script penned by Jon Spaihts (who wrote the Alien: Engineers script that became Prometheus) makes significant tweaks to some characters from the Doctor Strange comics (see the rumors about the version of Baron Mordo that Ejiofor is allegedly playing), so McAdams might similarly be playing a live-action version of Clea who is noticeably different from the comic book iteration. Doctor Strange's director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister) has generally proven adept at using genre elements - in particular fantasy and supernatural horror - to create rich character studies, so that bodes well for whatever changes he deems fit to make with the Doctor Strange mythology too.
Lastly, Feige touched on the casting of Swinton as The Ancient One - including, the character's gender, which there's been some question about (based on previous comments made by Swinton):
"We get an amazing actress to play an amazing character, and do it in a way that's very unique and doesn't fall into any outdated stereotypes that sometimes pop up in the comics from years past. It's funny you ask 'Will Tilda Swinton be playing a woman?' and you ask it because she does an amazing job of being sort of ambiguous in terms of gender. I think you'll see us playing it in ways that she's played other characters that way. Clearly she's a woman, but it is very ambiguous in her portrayal."
Oscar-winner Swinton is no stranger to playing characters whose genders are ambiguous (see her role in Snowpiercer, originally written as male), and it's perhaps all the more fitting that someone who has a title like "The Ancient One" - denoting their mastery and understanding of the magical arts - should not exactly be concerned with thing like, say, gender. Some fans have criticized the decision to change the ethnicity of a character who has typically been portrayed as Asian, though as Feige points out this does allow Marvel to bypass racial stereotypes from Doctor Strange comic book stories past.
In addition, Feige has previously said The Ancient One is a title and does not refer to a specific person, so we may yet see a different version of the character (re: a recasting of the role) in a future Marvel film, for that reason.
Captain America: Civil War opens in theaters May 6, 2016; Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man– July 28, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Black Panther– July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – November 2, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019.