(Spoilers immediately below. If you haven’t seen Doctor Strange and hate having stuff ruined STOP READING! Right here. Right now!)
If you’ve seen Doctor Strange (and odds are you have since you’re on this site) you know that the film provided a pretty intense and exhaustive information dump about the mystical side of the MCU. So much information that it may be difficult to be sure that you caught everything, heard everything, or even that they explicitly covered everything rather than just implied something.
Since the film was release there have been any number of articles speculating about the myriad scenarios, Easter eggs, references, and timeline clarification. MCU Exchange’s own examination can be found HERE.
Empire was able to speak to the film’s director, Scott Derrickson to get some metaphysical skinny on the various points straight from the horse’s mouth and compiled a list of the 12 most surprising or clarifying points.
Time is a big confounder in the film…the title character is playing around with the TIME STONE for cripes sake…so not only does the manipulation of time play a factor in the final battle, but the actual time involved with the movie as a whole is an issue. According to Derrickson the entire film covers about a year with a 3 to 6 month recovery time for Strange before he sets out for Nepal. Specifically, the film appears to run from one autumn to the following autumn, but Derrickson points out,
Don’t hold me to this, because I haven’t thought about this in a long time.
As noted in this MCU Exchange article (though this new information from Derrickson provides more details) titular star Benedict Cumberbatch provided the facial capture and part of the voice of Dormammu (again, the previous article noted another actor provided the voice, it turns out Cumberbatch’s voice was blended with the other actor’s voice) thereby playing both the hero and villain in the film. Derrickson stated there were three reasons for this decision:
One, Benedict suggested it. [Two], the awesomeness of his voice – he was Smaug, of course. [Three,] he understood exactly who Dormammu was. He’s the ultimate cosmic narcissist. There was something great about the mirrored relationship between the two of them.
Original Big Bad was Nightmare
Derrickson wanted the first major foe Doctor Strange faces to be the same one as in the comics so many years ago: Nightmare – ruler of the Dream Dimension. However, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige disagreed.
Kevin made a very cogent case…The trouble with starting with Nightmare is getting across the idea of the Dream Dimension as another dimension. The movie was challenging enough. It’s already an exposition-heavy movie… Dormammu made the most sense. And he is the most present villain in the comics.
The Big Battle sequence was a response to the normal MCU Big Battle
The Big Battle in most MCU films has some commonalities that have become, if not wearisome, at least repetitive. (When the lights came up at the end of the film my daughter looked at me and said, “Thank GOD they didn’t have the half-hour city-destroying scene at the end!”) Derrickson wanted his battle to be different:
It was literally the play on that whole, ‘Oh, every Marvel movie ends with a city being destroyed during a fight, and then a portal that opens is closed just in time’. I said, ‘Well, dammit, we’re going to un-destroy a city and we’re gonna leave the portal open and Strange is going to go into it and we’re going to see what’s on the other side. That’s how fresh my movie is, dammit!’
No matter what the credits say, Feige is the “head writer”
There was likely little doubt already about this point, but no matter what anyone on the set may think, Kevin Feige is the man in charge,
Kevin is the ‘head writer’ when it comes to the integration of the different stories. He once came up to me on set and said, ‘So, in Thor: Ragnarok, this is what’s going to happen… And then this is going to work into Infinity War.’ I remember thinking, This information I’m getting is the most coveted information in the world of entertainment. I thought, I have so much power now! If I tweeted this, I could create a global crisis! Within 24 hours, I had forgotten it all.
How many deaths…?
Once Strange comes face-to-giant-face with Dormammu, the villain is outwitted by the good Doctor through his mucking about with time using the Eye of Agamotto. During this battle it shows the time loop over and over again with Strange dying each time. Perhaps a dozen times, though it’s certainly suggested that this “battle” has been compressed and it went on much longer. An earlier script had that fact more than just suggested:
We had a line where Strange said, ‘We’ve been through this a thousand times.” Literally. I fancied the idea that they went through it thousands of times before Dormammu finally realized he wasn’t going to get out of it.
Another early script had a promotion for Strange
While on the topic of early versions of the script, Derrickson told Empire that the Sorcerer Supreme title was almost Strange’s:
We had script versions where he became Sorcerer Supreme. We just had so many problems with that. It’s premature. Once he’s blown through to the New York sanctum, he’s only accepted his role as a sorcerer in conflict for 24 hours. He’s a long way from being Sorcerer Supreme. I think the comics took like ten years before he actually became the Sorcerer Supreme.”
Mordo’s ‘fundamental’ change
While Mordo’s switch to the dark side surprised no one who knew the comics at all, Derrickson was intrigued by the character and made sure to show his heroic nature and how Mordo’s beliefs line up in a way with his own.
He’s a fundamentalist. Fundamentalism is such a pejorative word and immediately evokes images of angry extremism. In my experience, that’s not usually what it looks like. I was a fundamentalist in high school. I went to a fundamentalist Christian high school and went to a fundamentalist church, and they were the greatest people, there was an amazing sense of community.
The problem is when the messiness of real life enters and the inflexibility of a moral code cannot cope with the realities of moral relativism. When someone gives themselves over to an extraordinarily strict moral code, the process of breaking out of that is a violent one. He becomes disillusioned with the Ancient One’s [moral contradictions]. The difference is Strange can accept that contradiction. Mordo cannot cope with it, and that’s why the big jump at the [post-credits] tag makes total sense.
There are other directors’ hands at work
Derrickson was not the only one in the director’s chair for the film, other directors of MCU films stepped in to add portions of the movie. The Thor mid-credit scene was shot by Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Watiti and the Stan Lee cameo was shot by Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn.
We all shoot each other’s movies! James Gunn shot four Stan Lee cameos for four different movies in Atlanta. He was texting me pictures of the frame.”
The Staff of One in the Hong Kong sanctum
The inclusion of the Staff of One in the Hong Kong sanctum is one of the more exciting Easter eggs in the film and is also mentioned in the previously-noted MCU Exchange article.
Hendrix and Floyd were early choices for credits music
Highlighting the fact that you can’t always get what you want even if you’re a big name movie studio Derrickson pointed out that the original choice for music to play over the end credits was different than cool score by Michael Giacchino.
At first I wanted Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced? but the Hendrix family demanded to see the whole film ahead of time, and they’re very expensive. We didn’t have time to do it.
Derrickson didn’t get his second choice, Pink Floyd’s Interstellar Overdrive, either:
They wanted like $500,000 just to play over the end credits, and we weren’t going to do that. So Giacchino came up with that.
Is that Carol Danvers?
In a brief scene before the car crash that has many people speculating about different referenced potential patients (WHO is the soldier in the prototype armor?). One of the biggest is “22-year-old female patient struck by lightning” as there is much fan speculation that this is a reference to Carol Danvers, Brie Larson’s titular character in the upcoming MCU film Captain Marvel. While the speculation seems like a stretch, Derrickson was surprisingly vague about it when pressed on the possibility:
All I can say is…maybe. That one, you’re going to have to wait and see…
While some of these revelations may be less surprising than others, there are undoubtedly some nice morsels in there, especially as regards the time frame. What was most surprising to you? Sound off in the comments section below!