One of the great parts of Doctor Strange‘s take on magic was the way that the film attempted to blend magic, science, and spirituality. Some fans may have desired a purely mystical background to the topic, but the Ancient One describes a variety of religious, cultural, and medical practices as various maps to understanding reality. This combining of disciplines helps to ground magic in the MCU in a unique way. Recently the Associated Press released some promotional clips where the crew and cast talks about the various ways spirituality played into the film.
Director Scott Derrickson opened up about his own approach to spirituality, primarily his deep belief in the unseen, which has been with him his whole life.
I wasn’t raised in a particularly religious home, just was born with an innate sense that the world is a spiritual place, I’m just not a materialist. I believed from my earliest memories the material world that I lived in wasn’t all there was. It wasn’t even most of what there was, but that reality was more in the unseen around me and beyond me. It was my instinctive belief. And I have never lost that. I have always seen the world that way, I feel the world that way. Which I don’t have a necessarily adversarial feeling about pagan mythologies, some of our greatest mythologies are pagan mythologies. And there’s a lot of truth in the Doctor Strange comics, a lot of enlightenment.
Derrickson’s views on faith are an interesting subplot to his approach to the movie. Tilda Swinton said in promoting the movie that Derrickson is a diverse and “erudite thinker.” While some extreme Christian groups protested the film, Derrickson actually spent time with the Christian magazine “Relevant” to share how his faith has informed his directing, including his Marvel film. His ability to intertwine several different religious worldviews into the tapestry that we see in Doctor Strange is one of the things that made him so well suited for his job.
The video also shares some information about the personal practices of Mads Mikkelsen and Benedict Wong. Mikkelsen is the least personally engaged in spiritual practices but sees the values for others. His greatest spiritual discipline is acting.
There is some kind of spiritual cleansing just by being an actor. You get to be other people constantly, and then you learn something about yourself. I do not have a meditation thing going on, I do not have the stamina to sit still for that long. But I understand people have the urge of getting balance in your life, and there are so many different ways of doing that, you can do sports or you can relax or you can read books.
Wong, however, does practice meditation in his own life.
Mainly sort of 15 minute meditation and all you’re doing is concentrating on the breath, the connection of your breath. We so often find ourselves thinking about random, different things, so many different times, and latching to those things. And it’s about quieting the mind, you know, when you do get a chance to do it.
Throughout the movie, you can see the way that some of the same principles of being mindful of the self and the desires of the heart come to fruition in the lives of the characters. Overall the film does a great job of being inclusive of all the practices mentioned in the video. The film neither ignores spirituality nor hits the viewer over the head with a particular worldview. Clearly, the cast and crew spent some time reflecting on their own journeys and that improved the end product.
Doctor Strange starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Wong, Mikkelsen, and Swinton is currently in theaters.