With just barely over a month left to wait, Marvel has pulled out all of the stops in its marketing campaign for Doctor Strange. So far in the past week, we’ve seen new interviews, posters, images, and even a trailer drop, giving us more and more glimpses of what we can expect to see in November. And, as expected, this film is going to be an experience like nothing we’ve ever seen before in the MCU. Director Scott Derrickson recently sat down with Collider and offered his insights into the challenges Doctor Strange has presented. When first asked about his experience working with Marvel, he only had positive things to say:
“It’s been incredible. It’s been the most incredible filmmaking experience for me by far. . . . I know every director has their own stories. But my experience with Marvel has been really good. And I really enjoy the intimacy of the collaboration because it’s all been just myself and Kevin and my producer Stephen. There are no middlemen. It’s that and my crew. And there’s that’s it. There’s no one else working on the movie. And that’s new for me and unique for me.
This kind of structure for filmmaking also offered Derrickson and his team the ability to push the creative limit beyond the lines of what may be considered too far out or bizarre for other studio projects.
[T]he ambition of the movie, I’m surprised that I’m getting to make it. Because I keep feeling like . . . someone’s gonna say, “It’s too bizarre. It’s too weird. We can’t, it’s too, we’re going too far.” . . . But we crossed a line and after crossing that line we just kept going. It all kept getting stranger and stranger not to be, I didn’t mean that as a pun, but it all just kept getting more bizarre. And in a good way, in a way that as a viewer I think I would be satisfied by.
And while Doctor Strange will be the first MCU film to fully embrace the world of magic and mysticism, it is by no means the first time we’ve seen this kind of genre in other films. Derrickson faced the unique challenge of avoiding cliché while still making the magical elements of the film believable but still fresh.
[P]reserving the idea of magic was really important to me that we didn’t try to explain it away or root it all in something scientific that by definition is not magic to me. And . . . there’s also the burden of popular magic movies, the Harry Potter series, the Lord of the Rings, which appropriate magic in a very familiar, traditional way. . . . Those ideas we’re using and the rest of it was also was very traditional in the use of spells and even some of the imagery. So my, for me the starting point was what kind of things have we not seen in cinema? . . . I started from that place and looked for a way to tie that in to magic.
Keeping the realms of magic at the core of the film also affected the fighting style seen in the film. Derrickson wanted to avoid seeing characters throwing bolts of lightning at each other, and he avoided this by embracing the influence of martial arts on the film.
There’s definitely a martial arts influence on the movie. . . .[M]artial arts is the kind of action that does tie in well to the supernatural. . . .I felt like when it came to fighting in the movie that just made sense to certainly to go in that direction and stay away from gunfire and things like that.
Doctor Strange has offered some of the most unique challenges ever seen in developing a Marvel film, from incorporating the magical elements and avoiding the overused visual elements involved with that. All of these things are essential to creating a loyal, yet innovative take on the beloved comic book character. However, when asked what the most important element to incorporate into the character, Derrickson went back to the heart of the film – character.
[F]or me, my long standing love for Doctor Strange comes from first of all, the fantastical visual imagery of all the comics, particularly the early Ditko stuff, Into Shamballa, The Oath, a lot of the images that I have picked are from those three sources. And then individual issues. Thematically the loneliness of that character, I always really liked the idea of a character who had gone through so much trauma and was placed into a position between our world and other worlds, other dimensions literally. . . .I think my that as I’ve gotten older, my continuing love for Doctor Strange has been that he is a character who transforms through suffering. . . .But then he appropriates that suffering in a certain way that limits him. And then he goes through the loss of everything in a really painful, unbearable way. And eventually finds self-transcendence in something mystical. That’s Doctor Strange, and I love that.
Derrickson’s dedication to the emotional, human side of the Sorcerer Supreme bodes well for the film because that’s what has been at the core of the success of the MCU as a whole. These are films about real, relatable characters in a larger-than-life universe. Doctor Strange will show us a different, darker side of that universe, but it won’t be overly dark. When asked about the tone of the film, Derrickson had this to offer:
There’s comedy in it. But it’s not Guardians. It’s not that tone by any means. It’s closer to Winter Soldier, which has comedy in it and has some really funny lines in it.
If Derrickson is indeed taking cues from Captain America: the Winter Soldier, we can expect to see a nice mix of strategically placed comedic bits in order to lighten the tone of the film, without sacrificing diminishing the serious stakes of the plot. On a different note, many fans thought (and still believe) that Dormammu would be the film’s main antagonist, Derrickson instead chose to highlight Kaecilius, a lesser-known villain from the comics. When asked about this decision, his response was fairly cryptic.
I’m gonna answer with a tease. Is that fair? What we wanted was a character that was rooted in the real. . . .[A]n antagonist who was rooted in the real world who had, so that there could be an intimate relatability between Strange and his adversary. But who was empowered by something else. By something otherworldly. And connected to something else otherworldly. Which comes straight from the comics.
This tease does indicate that Kaecilius may very well draw his power from Dormammu, but we’ll have to wait until November to confirm these suspicions. Following the recent trend in superhero movies, several of the character interpretations in the film have deviated from the source material, specifically Mordo and Wong. Derrickson shed some light on the logic behind these decisions:
[I]n the case of Mordo . . . .it was a difficult character, very difficult character to adapt. Because of the very basic archness that he plays all the way through there. So we wanted to keep what were the interesting aspects of him, his relationship with The Ancient One, but the only way that Mordo who needs to be a presence in the universe of Doctor Strange and God willing in sequels, I felt that we had to start by establishing who he was before he got into that arch villainy in the comics.
Wong is another thing all together, because there’s, you know, it’s a racial stereotype. I mean, let’s be blunt about it. . . .[T]here just wasn’t a lot that was fundamental about his character that was usable. And so instead of being a sidekick, he’s a master of the mystic arts. Instead of being a manservant, he oversees the library at Kamar-Taj and is an intellectual mentor to Strange. So we kind of flipped everything that he was.
In conclusion, it seems like Doctor Strange is in good hands. From the little bit we’ve seen thus far, as well as the tidbits he’s been able to tease in interviews, Derrickson seems to have conjured a cinematic experience, unlike anything fans have ever seen, and the wait is almost over.
Doctor Strange hits theaters on November 4th, and stars Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange), Tilda Swinton (The Ancient One), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Baron Karl Mordo), Rachel McAdams (Christine Palmer), Benedict Wong (Wong), and Mads Mikkelson (Kaecilius). Source: Collider