Posted on October 18 2016
Attached to most of the major releases this season, the trailer for Doctor Strange is already making waves. Promising an entirely different kind of hero, Doctor Strange is teasing a journey into an entirely new genre for Marvel. The trailer is a psychedelic, spiritual and overtly magical experience that has left a lot of people wondering just what it is this new hero is about. Questions abound about what exactly we can expect with this mystic warrior, and what it means for the latest phase of Marvel movies. Can it remove the rust built up since that first explosive debut of Iron Man those 8 years ago? And with promises of the most authentic costume and transition from page to screen yet, what can we expect? Let’s have a quick talk about how Stephen Strange measures up the ultimate superhero yardstick: Iron Man.
Our hero is Doctor Stephen Strange (not a nickname or alias), one of the world’s greatest surgeons in spite of his occasional alcoholism and complete lack of respect or responsibility. Crippled in a drink driving accident, Doctor Strange knows he will never practice medicine again. After a spiritual journey through the holy places of the world, Strange finds peace in a Tibetan ashram under the tutelage of an ancient sorcerer who safeguards our world and seeks a worthy successor.
Starting with a very typical character arc for Marvel, Strange quickly diverges from anywhere Tony Stark or Peter Parker can ever visit. His journey is not about forging a new and more responsible life through adversity, it is about the abandoning of everything he was to find something different. In the world of comicbook literalism, Tony Stark finds a better version of himself and Doctor Strange finds the universe.
(We do mean literally finds the universe)
Both abandon all pretense of a normal life, embracing their Alter Egos as the definitive versions of themselves. Doctor Strange goes on to take on the mantle of our universe’s Sorcerer Supreme (the top magic guy in our dimension) and setting up as an investigator into the occult in New York for when he isn’t too tired of fighting monsters from beyond time and space who can eat planets.
To bring this big bold leap into mysticism to the screen, Marvel have seemingly achieved the same kind flawless casting they found with Iron Man. Beloved for his performance as the similarly intolerable-genius-addict Sherlock Holmes in the BBC’s award winning drama Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch has signed on to bring his singular charms to the Sorcerer Supreme. A genius contrast to the brash American industrialist with father issues, Cumberbatch’s Stephen Strange is an intellectual who seeks measured enlightenment through world travel. Cumberbatch’s statement on the character even included his personal familiarity with enlightenment, having taught English at a monastery during a gap year in his education that led him to his own spiritual journey; all elements of Doctor Strange appear arranged in delicious opposition to the self-centred and fiercely patriotic American Tony Stark.
Pictured: Needs more yellow.
Clad in ancient artefacts from alien worlds and times, Stephen Strange battles foes on the spiritual and physical planes. His incantations can silence cities, hollow mountains and blacken the skies but he is a child in the face of the dark titans that seek to feast on our universe. Doctor Strange is a man endowed with unlimited power to safeguard the universe against those who wish to consume it. His watch may last a million years but a single failure is death to all who live.
Focusing on threats from world conquerors and upwards, (including the occasional fight with the literal concept of death or time to keep it interesting) Strange is a character with a costume as iconic as the Iron Man. Wearing a regal cloak and a long collar, Dr Strange is made to evoke a mastery of mystical and hidden arts, borrowing from magician and illusionist imagery to create something an audience could believe may actually be a religious revelation.
Not waiting two movies to get caught up, Doctor Strange is already meeting the challenge with the most faithful reproduction of a comic book costume ever. Clad in bright red and blue, with a billowing cloak and runes etched throughout, Cumberbatch has already cemented himself in the annals of cinematic history for the sheer audacity of it. Bright yellow eye of agamotto shining on a chain around his neck framed by a wicked high collar, sashed belt and robes under a heavy red cloak, this could be designed by Steve Ditko himself.
Not to be outdone we’re sure, we can only imagine the suit awaiting us in Iron Man 4. We vote the Black Suit.
Not pictured: jazz on a record player (probably)
Taking another page out of the Iron Man school of cinematography, Doctor Strange positions its villian as a more experienced but corrupted reflection of the hero. Portrayed by the immensely unnerving and effortlessly refined talents of Mads Mikkelson, the Hannibal actor has described his character as the leader of an opposing sect, standing in conflict with the methods and beliefs of Strange and his mentor.
While not as accomplished as Jeff Bridges, Mikkelson has rightly gained praise for his work on the show Hannibal, where he can be seen as the charismatic but haunting Hannibal Lector. Directing lives to the slaughter according to his whim, but with an identifiable moral core (however darkened), the Hannibal actor is an exceptional pick for a cult leader.
Taking one last character cue from Iron Man, Doctor Strange will feature the protective friend/straight-laced spoilsport known to Doctor Strange fans as Wong. Played by Benedict Wong (a Dr Strange-level weird coincidence of its own) and last seen in Marco Polo as the excellent Kublai Khan, Wong is the hyper-competent best-friend sidekick we all want in our lives. In the same vein as War Machine and the Falcon, we fully expect Wong to get all the good jokes and immediately deserve his own blockbuster movie and merchandise line.
There is never enough Wong.