The Marvel Cinematic Universe is no longer a strange experiment in the world of filmmaking. It is now a very well oiled machine that has produced 13 blockbuster films that have grossed a combined total of more than $10 billion worldwide. And in a lot of ways as the MCU enters phase 3, it is really just getting started. With lots of new characters being introduced over the coming years and lots of corners of the Marvel Universe barely even touched on, if even explored at all, Kevin Feige and Co. have a lot coming our way over the next handful of years. Now that Captain America: Civil War is out to the delight of both critics and fans, it is time to focus on bringing the next brand new hero into the MCU, and that hero is Doctor Strange.
Not even two years ago, many people had concerns about Marvel being able to branch out from their main core of Avengers, like Captain America, Iron Man and Thor, that had gotten them through Phase 1 and most of Phase 2 leading up to Avengers: Age of Ultron. But all of that changed when Guardians of the Galaxy came out and managed to make a talking raccoon and a walking tree that only says three words a box office smash. Not only that, but last year the studio somehow made Ant-Man work, even with a bit of troubled production and a very strange type of hero at its core. Paul Rudd recently proved he could make the character work very well with the rest of the team in Civil War as well, so at this point, almost anything is fair game for the studio, and that makes the timing for ripe for Doctor Strange. Not only will Strange be a new kind of hero in the MCU, but he will be bringing with him an entirely unexplored area of the larger Marvel Universe, and that is Magic. Sure, the Thor films and the Infinity Stones have sort of flirted with the idea that magic exists in the universe, but Doctor Strange is known as The Sorcerer Supreme so make no mistake, things are about to get very magical, and very strange, if you will. So what do we really know about the upcoming Marvel Studios brand new franchise? More than you might think.
Much like Guardians of the Galaxy, but perhaps to a lesser degree, even many hardcore comic books fans don't really have an encyclopedic knowledge of the character Doctor Strange. He is, however, a huge fixture of the Marvel Universe and not to mention, an incredibly powerful one at that. The man behind the moniker of The Sorcerer Supreme is a former neurosurgeon named Stephen Strange, who is of course being played by Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange.And as Feige has pointed out over the years leading up to Strange's inclusion in the MCU, the character has one of the most rich and interesting backstories in all of Marvel history, and Doctor Strange is going to explore that origin.
Stephen Strange was at one point the world's greatest neurosurgeon and at the same time, not exactly a wonderful person. However, one night Strange gets into a terrible car accident and essentially renders his hands useless for his profession and spends his fortune attempting to find a way to fix himself, which eventually leads him to Tibet, where he discovers the ways of the mystic arts. Anyone who has watched the trailer can see the evidence of this origin being handled seemingly very faithfully, as the first shot in the trailer features an overturned car with Cumberbatch in the drivers seat. The rest of the trailer shows Cumberbatch wandering the globe in search of answers, and we even get a nice look at his shaking hands, indicating that he is clearly a mess after his accident. Once he is shown the way of the mystic arts though, it is a very different story, and one that will take us into other dimensions and show us villains that are unlike anything we have seen in the MCU to date. To put it simply, Doctor Strange is a very fitting name for the character and the world that he inhabits.
Every hero needs a villain, and Baron Mordo is that villain for Stephen Strange, at least in the comic book world. This is, however, the film version of Doctor Strange that we are dealing with, so things may be a little bit different, at least at first. Mordo is being played in the film by 12 Years A Slave actor Chiwetel Ejiofor. Mordo is a very powerful user of the mystic arts and magic and in the early days of Strange learning his powers, Mordo is a great ally to him. However, Mordo was training to eventually to up the mantle of The Sorcerer Supreme and when Strange gets to take it up instead, the two become mortal enemies. However, in the footage from the movie that we have seen, Mordo and Strange will be working together in Doctor Strange, as evidenced by that very fun gif of Ejiofor and Cumberbatch jumping alongside one another in costume in New York during filming. We don't know exactly how much the character has been changed for this film specifically, but it could be a bit of a departure from what we have seen in the comics. Granted, even if Mordo isn't a villain in this film, which he likely won't be, he could make for a villain in later installments of the franchise, which would be good for the MCU as one of the major complaints with Marvel films thus far has been the one and done villains, with the exception of Loki.
The Ancient One
For a character very few people were aware about until recently, The Ancient One is on everyone's radar now. Tilda Swinton is portraying the character in Doctor Strange and even though many love her as an actress, her casting has been the subject of a lot of criticism. The Ancient One is a very powerful practitioner of the mystic arts who is more than 500 years old and is the one who shows Stephen Strange the ways of magic and passes onto him the title of The Sorcerer Supreme. In the comics, the character is an Asian man who lives and trains in the Himalayas, but Swinton very clearly doesn't fit that bill. Marvel Studios as a result has been accused of whitewashing, though they did make the character a woman even though it was classically a man. It is not yet known if there will be a sequel to Doctor Strange but i is a safe bet that The Ancient One won't just be a one and done character, so if a sequel does happen, you can bet Swinton will be back. Either way, The Ancient One is going to play a huge part in the film and Swinton is going to be the one to bring it to life.
In the history of superheroes, there have been a lot of great sidekicks, and though he isn't as big of a name as Robin, Wong is truly one of the great sidekicks in the history of comics and fittingly, The Martian actor Benedict Wong will be playing Wong in Doctor Strange. Wong is essentially the right hand man to Strange, though in the comics he is often referred to as Strange's "manservant" which is one of the more culturally insensitive things that Marvel is going to have to navigate in bringing this character to life. As of right now it is unknown how big of a role Wong will have in the movie, but it is very likely that Wong has signed on for multiple films as he is an essential part of the Doctor Strange lore. In addition to his breakout role in The Martian, Wong has some experience doing big time action in Marco Polo for Netflix and in a comic book franchise with as Mr. Kim Kick-Ass 2, though his role wasn't overly large in that film. Though Marvel has received some heat for certain casting choices, if they can navigate the potential cultural sensitivities of Wong as a character, the studio should receive points for casting this role correctly.
Marvel Studios has developed a pattern of being able to pluck a director out of relative obscurity and turn them into blockbuster superstars, and that is what the studio seems to be doing with Scott Derrickson for Doctor Strange. Derrickson has primarily directed horror films like Sinister and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, though he has also done some sci-fi like the 2008 remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still. The world that Doctor Strange inhabits, which has largely been teased by the trailers, is a very different one than the Marvel movies that have come before it. Strange is the Earth's defender from all things supernatural and magical, and those things often come from other dimensions. Visually, those worlds tend to be very dark and for lack of a better word, Strange, so though Doctor Strange definitely won't be a horror movie, Derrickson's visual style will definitely fit the world and be evident. Derrickson was also very passionate about this project specifically, saying "I wanted it really bad. More than any other project that I've gone after, I felt compelled to do everything in my power to get on that project. Genuinely felt like I was the right guy to do it," just after it was announced he would be helming the project. He added that it is "the Marvel movie we're ready to see."
Though the announcement was made fairly late into the process in making Doctor Strange, it has been confirmed that composer Michael Giacchino will be doing the score for the film. Giacchino has a very long history with Disney as a company, going all of the way back to The Incredibles and has been working with the studio ever since. In recent years, Giacchino has found himself to be very busy in the world of blockbusters, having done Jurassic World last year and currently working on War of the Planet of the Apes in addition to Doctor Strange. One of the very minor criticisms on the Marvel Cinematic Universe and their 13 films up to this point is that there has yet to be a very prolific hero theme or classic theme like the themes in other massive franchises like Star Wars or Jurassic Park. GIacchino is one of the most decorated and prolific composers working in film today, so if anyone has a shot of finally giving a Marvel hero a very memorable theme, he is very possibly the guy. Either way, the music for the film is in very good hands and should help the Inception style visuals and magical elements of Doctor Strange come to life.
As of right now one of the biggest mysteries surrounding Doctor Strange is who exactly The Sorcerer Supreme will be facing off against in terms of a bad guy goes. What we do know for sure is that the villain is being played by Casino Royale and Hannibal star Mads Mikkelsen will be playing him. As mentioned previously, Baron Mordo has historically been one of Strange's biggest foes, but he clearly won't be the main villain, at least for this film. Though Mikkelsen has been shown in the teaser trailer and in various set photos, his character's look has been changed enough from whoever is playing from the comics that it is hard to pin down exactly who he is and the studio has yet to confirm his identity. As of right now, the strongest option seems to be a villain named Nightmare who isn't overly well known, but has a long history of squaring off against Strange. The character was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and in the comics at least, he is the evil ruler of the Dream Dimension, and based on some of the imagery we've seen in the trailer, that would seem to make sense. We won't know for sure until the studio makes an announcement or at the latest, when Doctor Strange comes out in November.
Though somewhat mystical elements have been touched on in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and other dimensions have been hinted at, Doctor Strange is going to dive head on into the concept of straight up magic and mysticism, opening an entirely new and unexplored side of the Marvel Universe. In an interview before production on Doctor Strange started, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige dove into what fans can expect, saying "You don't get into it in Harry Potter, but if a scientist went to Hogwarts he'd find out how some of that stuff is happening! We're not going to spend a lot of time on that, but there will be some of that. And particularly for a character like Strange, who goes from a man of science to a man of faith and who traverses both worlds." Not only will magic present an entirely new type of power in the MCU, but it will really open up an entirely new visual style and opportunity that we haven't seen before and things will be able to get pretty weird because of the ability for Strange to travel into different dimensions. We have already seen glimpses of this, like when Swinton as The Ancient One punches Strange and we see his Astral form take shape. "Stephen Strange. Might I offer you some advice? Forget everything that you think you know," says Baron Mordo in the opening line of the Doctor Strange teaser trailer, and that may be the best advice for fans as well.
We are a little more than a handful of months away from the release of Doctor Strange, so do you feel like you know everything you need in order to be ready to see The Sorcerer Supreme make his big screen debut? Be sure to check back because in the months leading up to the release, we will surely be learning a lot more about Marvel's next big franchise. Are you excited about seeing Stephen Strange on the big screen?