The arrival of Doctor Strange, and to a lesser extent the inclusion of Ghost Rider in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., opens up the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the world of magic. Thus far the films have focused on the science side of heroes, be it suits of armor, gamma radiation, or the super soldier serum. Almost every character flying around the MCU can be explained with some sort of pseudo-science mumbo jumbo. Early on it appeared that Thor might be the one exception, but then even his world of Asgard was described as more technologically advanced than magic. Fans have wondered if that route of science-ification will happen again with Doctor Strange, but Marvel Films President Kevin Feige bristles at the premise.

I don’t know if it was written off in that single line in Thor. It was given another way of looking at it. There are a couple of lines in Thor basically saying that science and magic it gets to a point where what’s the difference. And I think we’re continuing that. The Ancient One encounters Strange – he’s a scientist, he’s learned Western Medicine; he believes very much in that. She starts using Eastern lingo in the way she’s describing the world to him. He immediately writes it off – he rolls his eyes, he doesn’t buy it, and she goes okay, and she starts talking about it in Western terms to try and make him more comfortable. She says it’s the same thing. Whether you’re looking at the ancient study of acupuncture pressure points or you’re looking an MRI – she’s trying to say we’re talking about the same things here. And if you’re not comfortable with the word spells, let’s use the word programme. It’s all the same thing. And I think that’s true to a certain extent – I think for the audience and the way science is going. I’m not a scientist. I just read articles that are interesting and that capture my imagination, but I think there’s a reason why there’s so much faith placed in science.

Feige may see his approach as something other than “writing off” magic or mysticism, but the path looks very similar to what happened in Thor. The biggest nuance in his approach is that instead of making magic into science, the general principle of the MCU is that both are merely languages or ways of speaking about similar phenomena that are above both. His examples of MRIs and computer programs suggest that there will be a broader approach than early reports that the connection would be more specifically to quantum physics. The footage they shot at CERN has been removed from the film.

One foible the film is trying to avoid is the limitless nature of magic in some media. When magic is poorly defined and void of rules, the result is often that one kind of magic is strongest until the screenwriter needs it not to be. Then suddenly something else is stronger. How will Marvel set boundaries to magic to avoid deus-ex-machina writing?

It’s very hard because you don’t want to rule yourself out into it being mundane, or rule yourself into not being fantastical or magical. And certainly, we’re not doing that. And you’ve heard me talk about the quantum realm in Ant-Man which was certainly designed for that movie and for that story to take the notion of somebody who has the ability to shrink to another level we’ve never seen before, but as we were doing that, and studying it and talking to the science advisors who are always more than willing to spend an afternoon with us and talk about these amazing things – the quantum realm is another dimension. It tapped into what we had been working on with this movie as well, so that really became the notion that we’re scratching the surface of the quantum realm and then we just do a deep dive in this.

It’s fascinating to see another explicit connection between the worlds of Doctor Strange and Ant-Man‘s Quantum Realm. That connection, plus the mention of “science advisors” suggests the magical world of the MCU will be very rooted in science fiction as much as fantasy.

Similar to the problem of the “rules of magic” is the problem of representing magic. Will the battle scene’s be mere flashes of light back and forth? Or will it be two guys chanting incantations at one another or some kind of rip off of a Harry Potter wand fight? Feige says the creative team spent a lot of time thinking through the problem and how they would demonstrate magic in the new universe.

I would say the use of magic for action sequences was something that took a long time to figure out what road to take. We did not – and Scott was very smart – in not wanting it to simply be someone shoots a bolt of lightning, and someone blocks a ball of lightning, so someone throws another bolt of lightning, so someone blocks another bolt of lightning.

There are interpretations of that. But we wanted to do something different, and we wanted to tap into this notion of the multiverse, of dimensions right next to our own. And if you were able to tap into those dimensions, and those other powers, and what could you do if you pulled aspects of those other dimensions into our realm. All in the interest of creating a visual tapestry that is totally different in terms of an action scene we’ve seen in any other movies.

Whatever the rules of the magical side of the universe, it is not going to be merely inhabited by Doctor Strange. Plenty of other characters will be mentioned or shown. Also, Scarlet Witch and her power set need to be understood in connection with the rest.

Of Drumm and Minoru that you mention, one of those names you hear in the movie, and one of those – I don’t think… We never say Minoru in the movie, do we? No. So that picture, if it is in the art of book, is the only place you’d ever see that name.

Drumm, you do hear the name in the movie. That’s how we always build the universe. It’s not… there’s so many characters in the books that if we have need for a person to be in this place at this time and have a line or have no lines, we still want it to be someone, and oftentimes that’s how the names come about. And the names we pull are the ones that are relatively top of mind or have been amongst characters we’ve thought about, like the Runaways for a long time. I would call that an Easter Egg that most people won’t even see.

[Scarlet Witch]’s never had any training. She’s figuring it out. Arguably you could say that’s why her powers are much more chaotic, much more loose in the way that we showcase those light effects. In this film, some of what you might see today, the cover of EW, it’s much tighter; it’s all about focus, it’s about pulling energies from other dimensions in an organized and purposeful fashion which is why they can do a lot more than she can. At least in a much more precise way.

This description of Scarlet Witch in comparison to Doctor Strange suggests that magicians will have two aspects to their power: raw talent and magical training. Strange will presumably be the character with a high amount of both. One day it would be great to see a magical team up movie with Strange, Scarlet Witch, Nico Minoru, Brother Voodoo, and more. It seems that the seeds of such things are being laid now. Marvel knows that they have an unprecedented track record of expansion to “secondary” properties and a gigantic catalog to pull from, so they want to lay the groundwork for expansion as much as possible. That approach doesn’t always come to fruition (see the Leader in The Incredible Hulk) but options are there. Even Doctor Strange was name dropped in Captain America: Winter Soldier.

One final aspect of the world of magic that Feige deals with is that of alternate realities or other dimensions. He clarifies what Marvel is trying to do and what Marvel is not trying to do when they introduce dimension hopping to the universe in Doctor Strange. He begins by saying that the movie will go “real deep” into alternative dimensions.

I think when comic book fans hear parallel dimensions or multiple dimensions they think of Earth 616 and Earth 617 and Earth 618. That’s all possible. But what we’re playing with in this world is there are dimensions – that the other dimensions are not just parallel realities, although some of them are, but there are the Dark Dimension where Dormammu inhabits; there are dimensions that are so mind-bending that you can barely perceive them; there are dimensions where a lot of the Ditko images come from; there are dimensions that are just mind trips that the human mind can barely fathom which is why it’s hard to turn them into something to show audiences in November. But we’re playing as much with the notion of the multiverse as much as alien dimensions, for lack of a better term, than parallel realities where there’s Strange that wears Iron Man armor – we’re not there yet.

As of yet no one has confirmed that Dormammu will appear in Doctor Strange, but it is hard to imagine he will not. Of more interest is who will play that character. Regardless, Feige is clear that the plot device of other realities is not about creating “what if” situations. Instead, it’s about creating new landscapes and worlds to explore.

You suddenly don’t want to make it sort of… turn it into a galactic cosmos… it needs to be strange. It needs to be weird. It needs to be absolutely inspired from those images. Scott Derrickson I’m sure will talk to you today, and I think it might even be his twitter handle picture – a particular panel from the Ditko era that I think was turned into a blacklight poster that he remembered having. And that is been so much of the visual inspiration of the movie.

Returning full circle to the conversation of science versus magic, Feige doesn’t want to see another space-like scenario. Thor was guilty of feeling a bit like Asgard was merely another planet or some place that could be reached by a space ship. In fact, the Warriors Three visit Guardians of the Galaxy’s Collector and seemed to be part of roughly the same universe. The vision of the team behind Doctor Strange sounds like a push into deeper, more foreign territory.

There is still much more to read in the full interview at Screen Rant, so definitely read about what all they learned on set.

Source: Screen Rant