12 Things We Learned About Marvel’s “Doctor Strange”

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doctor-strange-bannerAll photos courtesy of Marvel Studios

As the 14th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, DOCTOR STRANGE brings us into a new side of the comic book universe with sorcery, mysticism, multi-dimensional traveling and astral projection. Audiences will be in for a trippy ride come Friday when the movie opens in theaters on Friday (read our review here). With a new superhero that is unlike any superhero in the MCU, people will have a lot of questions. Luckily, the head honcho of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige and director Scott Derrickson gave us a lot of information about the “Strange World” along with stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, and Mads Mikkelsen at the recent Doctor Strange press conference. Here’s what we learned.


1.) The weird world of Stephen Strange has been on Marvel’s minds for years

Doctor Strange is popular for diehard comic book readers and Feige has said that they have been talking about making a movie about the Sorcerer Supreme for years — but it was all about timing.

“We always say we have to push the boundaries, we have to keep surprising people, we have to keep making them unique and different, and certainly this movie and this character fits all of that,” says Feige. “And also tapping into other dimensions and tapping into sort of that supernatural realm of the Marvel Comic Universe is going to come in handy, you know, as we move forward throughout the Cinematic Universe, so the timing was perfect.”

“Doctor Strange was a, you know, product of the ’60s and was big breath of fresh air into the world of comics at that time,” says Derrickson, who was a fan of the comics growing up. “As a fan watching movies I felt ready for some new, daring, weird left turns, you know, in the world of comic books and the MCU. I think Guardians of the Galaxy was that and, you know, I was so pleasantly surprised when I saw how bold that movie was. So when I came in to meet on Doctor Strange, you know, my approach was let’s make this as weird in the MCU as the comic was in the comic book world in the ’60s, and that’s what we tried to do.”

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2.) The movie could have come out a lot sooner

If there was anyone to blame for the delay for a Doctor Strange movie, it’s Mr. Cumberbatch. The movie’s release was pushed back just so that they could have Cumberbatch play Strange. Feige and Derrickson wanted Cumberbatch for the role because it felt right to them so Derrickson flew to London to meet with him.

“I think I had some of my concept art at that point and Benedict really wanted to do it, but he was doing Hamlet in London,” said Derrickson. “So we were a summer release movie, so it wasn’t going to work, you know, and I came back and I met with a bunch of other actors, good actors, but I just felt like it had to be Benedict and Kevin, to his credit, agreed, and so we pushed the schedule for him.”

“Sorry,” joked Cumberbatch. “No, it’s incredibly flattering. It’s a weight of responsibility as well obviously. It’s a great motivator to try and do a good and fulfill the promise they’ve shown you, or that they’ve given to you.”

3.) The MCU is like a circus to Tilda Swinton

Lately, it seems that nabbing a role in a Marvel movie seems like a huge deal for an actor in Hollywood. For Academy Award-winning actress Swinton, who plays the Ancient One, it was more than a huge honor. It was like joining the Big Top.

“I keep saying that it’s a bit like being invited to join the circus, you know? You get invited to be the bearded lady or the painted gentleman or something and you may have a chance in the future to play with a clown or learn a bit of trapeze or work with the ponies with the plumes,” says Swinton. “The reason that feels like a correct way to describe it is that everybody’s so psyched. Feige’s just the super fan of all super fans and he’s the master of the big top and it just feels such a lucky break for everybody who’s working in that circus top.”

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4.) Mads Mikkelsen’s villain is really a hero in his eyes

As a villain in Casino Royale and villain-type character in the upcoming Rogue One, Mikkelsen continues his string of playing baddies on-screen in Doctor Strange with the zealot of Kaecilius — but he doesn’t necessarily seem him as a bad guy.

“I always play all characters as a hero. I mean, I think we have to look at it that way,” says Mikkelsen. “The key to any good villain, which I think was very clear from the beginning in this script, is that they have a point. It’s not completely crazy what they’re saying. There is a point. Even in Doctor Strange’s eyes, he does believe I have a point. Even though it’s for a fraction, if that. And I think that’s the key for a good villain. You have to have something the audience identify with, so he doesn’t just go ballistic and say I’m going to take over the world because I can. (He’s) Somebody who believes utterly in every word he says.”

5.) Who’s more arrogant: Sherlock Holmes or Stephen Strange?

Cumberbatch plays the iconic character of Sherlock Holmes on the BBC Sherlock who have some striking similarities. ven diagram. Cumberbatch says that if a ven diagram was made up between the two, there is a crossover of clever, arrogant, being a workaholic, materialism and egocentric — but Strange is a bit more approachable.

“He’s got charm and he’s witty, he’s liked by his colleagues, he’s had relationships with them — he’s not a cut off outsider, sociopathic, asexual obsessive that Sherlock is,” laughs Cumberbatch. “So yeah, there’s a world of difference. You know, he’s a man of the world, as opposed to Sherlock who isn’t.”

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6.) The trippy effects are an homage to Steve Ditko’s art

The MCU started in 2008 with Iron Man, and Feige and Derrickson pushed the envelope with Doctor Strange by not following superhero standards. The challenge was translating the comic to the big screen to something fresh and fun that still fit into the MCU. They had some challenges, but they wanted to stay true to the source material created by Stan lee and artist Steve Ditko.

“The challenge was to try to make a movie that is as visually progressive by movie standards as the Ditko art was in the ’60s,” said Derrickson.  “Our primary source of inspiration was the early Stan Lee, Steve Ditko comics, and that artwork is still progressive. You look at lot of the panels in the comics and that was our primary source of inspiration and visual effects have just caught up to where we can do some of the things that we did in this movie. And I think that the trick of it was to not hold back and to push ourselves as far as possible to do original things with the set pieces. I remember in some of my early meetings saying that I felt like that my goal was for every set piece in the movie to be the weirdest set piece in any other movie, you know. But each one of them would be uniquely odd and unusual and refreshing. And that comes out of movie fandom more than anything else, because that’s what I want to see. I want to see event movies that use visual effects sequences for more than just mass destruction, but get more creative with them and find new ways to do them and give me as an audience member some kind of visceral experience that’s unique, because the movies that do that are memorable and change the way you feel about cinema in general.”

7.) Cumberbatch had a real “superhero” moment

When Cumberbatch put on Strange’s full costume — complete with the Cloak of Levitation, he admittedly had a superhero moment — but he took that to another level and visited a local comic book store as Doctor Strange while filming in New York.

“I have the video on my phone. I’ve never sent it to anybody but Benedict. It was a spontaneous thing,” said Derrickson. “I put the camera on him and I followed him in and the people who were there couldn’t believe that it was Doctor Strange.”

“I didn’t have any money so I didn’t buy any comics,” said Cumberbatch, “but I offered my services. I said, look, if the film doesn’t work out, I’ll come and stack the shelves for you.”

8.) Will Marvel’s Illuminati be showing up in the MCU soon?

In the Marvel comics, there is a group of superheroes called the Illuminati who band together and secretly work behind the scenes. This includes the likes of Reed Richards, Iron Man, Professor X, and Doctor Strange — but will this group make its way to the big screen?

“What’s fun about the Illuminati are certain characters interact with other certain characters,” says Feige. “I don’t know about that particular storyline, but certainly some of those characters you will see together on screen in the next Avengers film.”

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9.) Tilda tuts with the help of some magic fingers

The fight sequences in Doctor Strange are like nothing you have seen before. In particular, there is a lot of hand choreography during these scenes of combat when the characters are wielding spells at each other. The actors learned a dance technique in the B-boy world known as “tutting” to put some magic in their fingers. They learned from tut-master JayFunk and practiced tutting as much as they were learning martial arts.

“He taught us a series of extraordinary and movements which have to be super-precise because if you’re (move in certain ways), you have to be at a certain point where the line is going to be drawn between your fingers,” said Swinton. “And then you have to be exactly the right width so that you’re in the frame, and it was super-precise and kind of hairy, but really good fun.”

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10.) Rachel McAdams loves wearing scrubs

With Cumberbatch, Wong, Mikkelsen, and Swinton diving into the world of magic and the astral plane, McAdams’ character represented the real world with a in a hospital doing human things. As much as she wanted to dive into the world of sorcery, she was fine where she was — particularly the wardrobe. While the others were in heavy monk-like robes and wrappings, McAdams was pretty comfortable with her costume.

“It was so nice to wear scrubs all the time,” said McAdams. “When (Benedict) was putting that cloak on and sweating buckets, I was —”

Cumberbatch chimes in, “You were doing your nails.”

McAdams laughs, “I was doing my nails.”

11.) The movie is a throwback to ideas from the ’60s and a moral that goes beyond magic & sorcery

When the Doctor Strange comics came out in the ’60s, it was a very progressive time. There were plenty of ideas during that decade about opening your mind, alternate universes, and things of the like which were eye-opeining as much as they were trippy. The movie adaptation keeps in the same spirit and then some.

“I would say if anything maybe more than ever we need to concentrate on opening our minds, and in particular to knowing that our minds are ours to have some kind of perspective on. There’s something really radical that’s said in this film which is that ego and fear are things to be lived beyond, and let’s face it, this is a hot topic,” says Swinton. “We really, really need people to remind us right now that ego and fear are not necessarily the only option we can live through.”

“You know, it’s about mindfulness in a sense,” adds Cumberbatch. “I think that’s the common derivative which has carried through. Culturally we’re still referencing (the ’60s”, we always will. It was a very strong moment in all culture, but I think you have to reinvent the wheel slightly, you can’t just replicate it. This is a film for now. But I think like Tilda was saying, the strongest message is the idea that you, with your mind, have the power to change your reality, and that’s a great, wonderful, freeing, egoless message. And also you do that with the idea of doing it for the good of others and you’re onto a very, very good thing, as Doctor Strange gets to by the end of the film.

12.) We haven’t seen the last of Doctor Strange, obviously

With Doctor Strange opening the door into the brand new world, that we might see him palling around with the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy in the near future. In fact, it is certain we will see him palling around with his fellow Marvel kin — but when exactly?

“(We’re)  just thinking one step at a time,” said Feige. “But Benedict puts on the cloak again early next year in Avengers: Infinity War.

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