‘Doctor Strange’ Footage: We’ve Seen 15 Dizzying Minutes of Marvel’s Mystical Superhero Film
Like Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man before it, Doctor Strange is kind of a wild card in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — the titular hero doesn’t have the same name recognition among general audiences as, say, Captain America. But Marvel is using that to their advantage and taking some bolder creative risks with the Sorcerer Supreme’s solo outing. At a special preview event, the studio screened 15 dizzying minutes of IMAX footage from the upcoming film, and it’s far weirder and wilder than those trailers are letting on.
The footage we saw tonight was sort or like a reeeeeeeally extended trailer and largely focused on a handful of key moments from Doctor Strange — including a totally mind-bending climactic sequence. Actually, everything we saw — with the exception of some basic character interactions — was pretty bonkers. It is a little, um, strange to judge some of what was shown out of context (especially earlier scenes). Thankfully that November 4 release date isn’t too far away now.
Here’s our full breakdown of the extended sneak peek, which includes some potential spoilers, including Stan Lee’s cameo:
Meet Stephen Strange
Benedict Cumberbatch plays the eponymous protagonist, a gifted neurosurgeon whose arrogance and narcissism is a bit grating, to be honest. And you thought Tony Stark was cocky (it’s going to be delightful when those two meet). We see Strange flirting with Rachel McAdams’ Nurse Christine Palmer (they appear to have a romantic history) before jumping in his car to attend an event where he’s a guest speaker. On the way, he fields a call from a colleague and scoffs at prospective patients. That bad attitude won’t make you feel too bad for Strange when his reckless driving leads to a car accident that renders his gifted hands utterly useless.
Expand Your Mind
Strange spends his last dollar on a pilgrimage to meet The Ancient One (a wonderfully dry Tilda Swinton), believing that she holds the secret key to healing his hands. That white male privilege and entitlement rears its ugly head, however, and he completely ignores everything she has to say — until she literally knocks him out of his body. It’s a moment you’ll recognize from the trailers, but it’s what comes next that’s really fantastic: The Ancient One hits Strange’s third eye and sends him barreling through various dimensions. Seth Rogen’s comedic drug trip sequences have nothing on the psychedelic visuals employed here. It’s astounding, elaborate stuff, and easily provides the most entertaining moments in the footage.
Let’s Talk About Cumberbatch’s Co-Stars
Doctor Strange is not a particularly funny guy — he thinks he’s funny, but he’s like Jon Hamm on 30 Rock: He lives in a bubble where no one criticizes him (I’m suddenly very concerned about his actual medical degree), so he has a lot of unchecked arrogance. Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams and Benedict Wong make for excellent foils. These are characters who are wiser, more traveled (in imaginative and unimaginable ways) and far more perceptive than Strange has ever allowed himself to be. It’s difficult to tell from the limited interactions in the preview footage, but it hardly seems like a coincidence that a privileged white man such as Strange finds himself humbled by two women and two people of color.
It’s a great, thoughtful contrast, and although it won’t erase criticisms of whitewashing Asian culture, that casting seems very intentional and has serious thematic potential.
Getting to the Good Stuff With the Bad Guys
Mads Mikkelsen plays the film’s villain, Kaecilius (yeah, he’s obscure even for comic-book fans), a rogue, power-hungry sorcerer attracted to the darker end of the mystical arts spectrum. Along with his followers (including a mysterious, badass woman in a yellow cloak; she’s already one of the coolest characters in this movie), he draws energy from a dark dimension to manipulate space — you know that Inception-esque sequence from the trailers? That’s Kaecilius at work, and it gets way, way crazier in a big climactic scene that sees Strange and Ejiofor’s Baron Mordo involved in a wild chase through New York. The city’s landscape is transformed, doubled and quadrupled and bent over itself as our heroes and villains engage in a pursuit that involves hopping through dimensions.
It is a Rick & Morty mashup desperately waiting to happen. (You can easily see why Dan Harmon was asked to contribute some script rewrites.)
Words Don’t Do This Footage Justice
The inter-dimensional sequences are completely nuts. Strange travels through time and space, visiting myriad dimensions and experiencing shapes and images for which we have no visual reference in the real world. If you’ve ever had a friend who took psychedelic mushrooms, you’ve probably heard them describe things in these terms. Images infinitely repeating and transforming like a surreal kaleidoscope. One of the dimensions that Strange briefly visits looks an awful lot like the Quantum Realm from Ant-Man…and it very well could be. There’s also a couple of shots of a spacey dimension that features a giant, purplish head with glowing yellow eyes — who or what could that thing be?
Mostly, it’s difficult to describe these trippy sequences, which really should be experienced first hand, on a big screen. A very big screen. An IMAX screen, even.
Stan Lee’s Signature Silly Cameo
He’s on a bus during that wild climactic sequence in New York, reading a copy of Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception — a philosophical essay published as a book, in which Huxley recounts his experiences on mescaline. It’s a bit on-the-nose, but incredibly fitting. As Strange and Mordo smash into the side of the bus, Lee chuckles at the book and says, “That’s so funny.” It is pretty funny.