Marvel’s Doctor Strange brings the magic

Holding a Doctor Strange book, director Scott Derrickson officially announced on his Twitter account that filming on his Marvel project had concluded about a week and a half ago. Having commenced filming in Nepal during November last year, production moved to London for the next several months, only recently filming a few action sequences in New York City, in which actors Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Mads Mikkelson were seen.

But who is Doctor Strange? Well, to put it simply, Doctor Strange is the man who punches out Cthulhu and keeps creatures that would make it scream away from our dimension. A dimension-hopping, magic wielding badass, he is the Sorcerer Supreme. The mightiest humanoid in existence.

And now, we have been graced with the long-awaited Doctor Strange trailer at long last.

Some analysis is going to follow. But first, what we already knew…details have been kept close to Marvel’s chest, but it is known that:

  • This will be an origin film, and
  • Mads Mikkelson will be playing the main villain of the story.

From this we can reasonably conclude that if Mads Mikkelson is playing the main villain, then clearly Chiwetel Ejiofor, whose character (Baron Mordo) is a longtime enemy of Strange, is not. It seems then, that he’s being positioned as more of a long-term threat. Which is good, because killing off villains in their debut film is something Marvel has been a bit trigger happy about. Furthermore, in various set pictures and videos captured on site, Baron Mordo and Doctor Strange have been seen standing together, side by side. Brothers, colleagues, perhaps even friends. Which only makes their inevitable conflict even more tearjerking, though hopefully it will be a fair bit away.

Alright then, on to our analysis!


Origin Story


As I just mentioned, this is an origin film for Strange, and that means that we need to tread his path and see how he became the man he is. And given that he’s not exactly one of their more mainstream characters, getting his origin right is essential. Luckily, Marvel seems to pull it off – right off the bat, we’re treated to a very succinct retelling of his path to greatness.

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Figure 1

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Figure 2

As in the comics, Doctor Strange has been in a car accident, damaging the nerves in his hands irreparably and forever destroying his medical career. I quite like the scene in figure 1 – if you watch the video, you’ll see that it’s actually his reflection in a puddle of water, which of course is a rather on-the-nose allusion to his future as a dimension-hopping sorcerer. In the comics, he squandered his fortune trying to seek a way to repair his hands, and thus his livelihood as a doctor, eventually stumbling onto a mystical temple where he learnt the ways of magic from someone called the Ancient One.

As this happens, what sounds like Chiwetel Ejiofor’s voice plays over, saying ‘Stephen Strange. Might I offer you some advice? Forget everything that you think you know.’

This presumably takes place early in Doctor Strange’s training, when he has first discovered the mystic temple. As he later says in the trailer ‘I don’t believe in fairy tales about chakras, or energy, or the power of belief‘, so he’ll definitely be having a crisis of data and cold hard science versus pure blind faith in the unknown. Perhaps he won’t have it yet, but he will. Appropriately, the Marvel title card is substantially different from that of the other films set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – whilst it starts off red and white like the others, it fades to black and grey.

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Figure 3

It’s a good thing that we have the Marvel logo there actually, or I doubt any casual moviegoers would realise that it’s even set in the MCU, given how tonally different it is.


In Asia


These scenes here are from when filming was in Nepal, as Strange draws ever nearer to his destiny.

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Figure 4

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Figure 5. Perhaps he’s touching these totems for good luck?

You can see here from figure 5 that his hands are pretty damaged, and for a proud man like Strange, having his life ripped asunder in a single moment is enough to break him, sending him spiralling into depression.

A couple of jump cuts follow, juxtapositioning Strange’s past and present rather beautifully.

It’s pretty safe to deduce that the Doctor is not in a good place, and Cumberbatch portrays it as beautifully as ever, grounding the character with a gravitas that can’t help but make you feel sympathetic for his plight without even a single word. From clean-shaven, sharply dressed doctor to a scruffy vagabond…at least things can only go up once you hit rock bottom, as he will soon learn.

Travelling from New York to Asia, he eventually stumbles upon the mystic temple I mentioned earlier.

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Figure 6. I assume New York.

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Figure 7. Some city in South East Asia.

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Figure 8. The temple!

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Figure 9. Thanks to all these Asian extras, without whom this film wouldn’t be possible!

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Figure 10. This here is Tilda Swinton’s character, the Ancient One.

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Figure 11. Baron Mordo takes Strange to see the Ancient One.

 


Alternate Dimensions


The entirety of the preceding spoken lines appear to be part of a dialogue between the two, as the camera focuses in on One telling Strange just as it appears like he’s about to leave: ‘You want to know what I see in your future? Possibility.

And then…oh man, this is incredible.

She catapults him into the astral plane!!!

The astral plane is a level of existence which generally only mystics and psychic entities can enter, in which their souls are shown to be leaving their bodies, as shown above. While she’s at it, One also seems to take Strange on a round trip through a couple of other dimensions, as seen below. You can actually see him falling if you look closely enough.

 

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Figure 12

I guess that this is meant to be a visual representation of a trip through, or at least, glimpsing, alternate realities. And just like that, the Marvel Cinematic Universe expanded in a big way. What does it mean, when a man can open portals to other dimensions? Could we, perchance, get new versions of old characters? When the time comes for recasting – and someday, some when in the future, it will – Marvel has cleverly wrangled in a way to introduce in new iterations of characters that they want to bring back. Oh, perhaps they won’t be introduced right away – Iron Man for example is a good example, given Robert Downey Junior’s daunting presence as a predecessor – but the time will come when Marvel recasts them. And when it does, Doctor Strange will be ready to bridge the gap.

Of course, it’s a little too fantastical for the mainstream MCU at present, but as the good Doctor gets more settled into the universe, the possibilities are simply endless. For example…Tim Miller, director of Deadpool, and Simon Kinberg, producer and architect of most of Fox’s X-Men franchise films have apparently been trying to figure out a deal with Marvel and Sony to get a Spider-Man and Deadpool crossover. As they are clearly in distinctly separate universes however, they’ll need a bridge of some kind, and as the X-Men franchise doesn’t seem to be embracing too much of their comic book roots at the moment (though perhaps this will change with X-Men: Apocalypse), Doctor Strange would be a good intermediary.

Either way, this kind of stuff won’t be happening until after Infinity War finishes, as that’s what Marvel has been building towards for nearly a decade now and filming is expected to start in November – there is no way that they’ll change their course now so close to the finish line. There’s plenty of time for a new direction after that two-part epic anyway.

Naturally, after that psychedlic trip, Strange begs for the Ancient One to teach him the ways of magic. I don’t know if she’ll agree at first – she did just show him those other dimensions, presumably to recruit him, but in the comics, the Ancient One refused because he only selfishly wanted to use it to heal his hands. Regardless, we know that he does end up being taught by her at some point because otherwise what the hell is this movie even about?

The trailer ends with a money shot – a little peek at his Sanctum Sanctorum in full garb, though we only see the back of it.

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Figure 13

It’s hard to make out details, but luckily we have posters!

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Figure 15


Baron Mordo


I mentioned before that Baron Mordo is not the enemy in this story. In fact, he appears to be somewhat of a friend and ally to the good Doctor, given that in all of the scenes we’ve seen captured on camera have shown them standing side by side, shoulder to shoulder. Colleagues. Partners. Friends. And in an almost Shakespearean, tragic manner, become enemies. I’ve never been much of a big fan of the Thor franchise, but Loki was the best (and pretty much only) part that I liked.

You can see that they’re running together, side by side, and yet, in the trailers, Mordo seems to have a certain disdain for Strange.

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Figure 16


Mads Mikkelson’s mystery character


Details on Mads’ character has been kept rather tightly under wraps, but you can tell from the similar clothing to that of Strange and Mordo that he was likely a former student of One at some point, and Feige’s statements in an interview certainly lends credence to that theory. Speaking with EW, he said that Mads’ character ‘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’.

Figure 17

Naturally, with the level of secrecy involved, speculation was rampant, with names like Dormammu and Baron Mordo being tossed in (his two greatest enemies). Mordo is taken; throwing in Strange’s biggest enemy ever right from the start seems a definite no-go, and as Feige confirmed that the character’s name hadn’t been guessed yet at the time of interview, it’s probably safe to say that Mads is not, in fact, playing Dormammu. Though that doesn’t rule out his character worshipping the demon, or being his servant in some way.

The eye-makeup is certainly interesting, suggesting that he’s been burnt out from the inside in some way…

Figure 18

As Dormammu takes the physical form of a flaming humanoid, it might indeed indirectly play a role in this film after all. Unfortunately, I’m not very learned in Doctor Strange lore, but anyone who is, feel free to share who you think Mads might be playing!


Rachel McAdams


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We only get a brief shot at her, but we do know from Lord Kevin Feige, long may he reign, that…we don’t get to know her name. At least, not yet. He deigned to give us some information on the role, however – she’s a fellow surgeon, and “someone he connects with at the beginning, and reconnects with, and helps anchor his humanity”. This definitely sounds like she’ll be involved with him in some way, likely romantic; hopefully though, she’s not just some tokenistic love interest for Strange.

I could go on, and on, but these are the most salient points I could find. As for what I personally felt about the trailer – whilst I was always interested in the trailer, I feel it’s a bit weak for what is most definitely a new franchise starter for Marvel, and far less confident than the other ‘out there’ trailers, with Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy. Lack of screen-time for other characters didn’t help. It’s only a teaser trailer though, so there’s plenty of time for marketing to revise their strategy.

Marvel’s Doctor Strange will cast a spell on audiences November 4, 2016. As an aside – just two weeks later, so too will Warner Bros.’ latest addition to the Harry Potter franchise, a prequel trilogy based on and titled Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. As per usual, please feel free to share, and let me know what you think in the comments below. If you do, good things will happen to you forever and you’ll finally be happy.

Source: Marvel, EW

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7 comments

  1. Great trailer breakdown. I think one of the great things about the evolution of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that we’ve already touched upon some things that would be relevant to Strange and the Ancient One. In The Dark World, we saw Odinson and Malekith jump through portals, for example. I only hope that Mads Mikkelsen is given much more to work with than Eccleston was in The Dark World.

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    1. I certainly hope so; the Thor franchise in my opinion round out the worst films in the entire MCU, except maybe for the Incredible Hulk. That may be set to change with them bringing on the Hulk and Cate Blanchett (who is probably going to play Enchantress or Hela).

      Mads has always been good at playing villains, but Marvel has short-changed practically every villain except Loki, so, fingers crossed!

      As I understand it, Thor 2’s portals were to other planets, not other dimensions, which we’ve already seen with the Bifrost and the Tesseract. Actual dimension hopping has yet to occur in the MCU I believe. Besides, Lord Feige explicitly said that it was in Doctor Strange that we first explore parallel dimensions.

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    1. Hi, thanks for dropping by! Unfortunately, no, although I did send applications in to a few places. I’m a uni student as well though, so the priority is of course on my studies. It would be nice and fun to do, but not exactly something I’m actively seeking out either.

      Liked by 1 person

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