Magic, it’s not the easiest thing to depict on screen. When most filmgoers think of casting spells their minds tend towards either incantations or a British orphan hurling magic lightning via his wand. And over time, these depictions of sorcery have gotten old and tired. Even the good Doctor himself has been known to use artifacts like the Wand of Watoomb and to spout off phrases like, “by the hoary hosts of Hoggoth”, to incite a spell. Now I like goofy alliteration as much as the next guy, maybe even more so. But movie magic has been in dire need of something new. And when Doctor Strange was announced, the big question was how were they going to depict the magic. But praise be to the movie gods, the film’s director Scott Derrickson felt the need to change the formula.
“I think that magic tends to be something where you cast a spell and then the camera sits back and you watch something happen. I didn’t want it to be that. I wanted it to be in the action, I wanted it to be more organic.”
Searching for a more physical approach, Derrickson was steered by one of his producers towards Youtuber JayFunk. The popper dancer who specializes in the intricate hand dancing of tutting proved to be the key in unlocking Doctor Strange’s onscreen magic.
“[JayFunk’s] one of the world’s best tutters. He does these amazing things with his fingers, go look him up on YouTube. We hired him to do all the choreography [of the spells], so he taught Tilda and Benedict and Mads. It’s very specific and very deliberate and super-cool.”
While one would think that hip-hop dancing would have absolutely nothing to do with the Sorcerer Supreme, tutting as it turns out, fits Doctor Strange as well as his yellow gloves. Speaking of a specific example, Derrickson referenced the generation of the mystical mandala symbol.
“I gave the mandala to [J-Funk] and I said, ‘I need gestures that will last this amount of time to build this,’” Derrickson continues. “So we talked about, ‘Okay, so she’ll do this and then this part will appear and she’ll do this and then this part will appear and then she’ll spin this part.’ It was all very detailed and designed and he was awesome. I’m really glad we used him.”
While the mind-bending cityscapes and the psychedelic dimensions have garnered most of the film’s praise, I for one found the spellcraft to be just as important. Reminiscent of Scarlet Witch’s own hexes, though much more intricate, Strange’s spell casting is part of what makes the film such a visually appealing experience. But don’t just take my word for it. If you haven’t seen it, check out Doctor Strange in theaters now!