Like Guardians of the Galaxy before it, Doctor Strange is Marvel’s first sizable introduction to a new aspect of their universe for general audiences; namely the supernatural/magical realm. We’ll likely get another giant dose of that subject matter in next year’s THOR: RAGNAROK, but Strange which hits theaters this November, will be audience’s first dive into other planes of existence.
This week Marvel and Imax showed off some early footage of the upcoming film to audiences in a limited theatrical engagement and Fanboy was there to see it.
The footage ran around 15 minutes and was a mixture of expository drama, character introductions, and action-special effects showcase. We were introduced to Dr Strange the surgeon and then shown his dramatic car accident (glimpsed in the trailers) that removes him from his life’s ambition. We very quickly cut to him in Tibet as he meets Tilda Swinton’s version of the Ancient One as she introduces him to the world of magic. The footage then ramps up as Strange learns more and more about how to perform the amazing feats himself and then we’re off to the races as the last several minutes are just pure action with Strange and his allies fighting Mads Mikkelsen’s evil group of sorcerers in a trippy fight through the streets of New York as they run and fall and slip and teleport around the skyline.
All the actors are in top form here. There’s a lot of organic humor in the dialog throughout the footage we saw and all of it works to great effect. We’ve seen some of the more obvious humor in the trailers such as the wifi password line that Ejiofor’s MORDO uses with Strange in Tibet, but there’s a great conversation that Strange has with Rachel McAdams’ nurse Palmer — a former love interest of his that works really well to show how the writer’s have been able to tackle serious subject matter (broken relationships) while still managing to keep things engaging. The dialog tells us a great deal about Dr Strange’s arrogant self-image without making it so obviously about that. The footage we saw has several sequences like this that setup who our characters are without making things quite so tedious. There’s a more obvious sequence where we’re introduced to Benedict Wong’s Wong; In the comics he’s Strange’s butler. Sort of the Kato to Strange’s Green Hornet. In the movie they’ve made him a librarian. Basically. He’s responsible for the vast library of magical literature that Strange uses to study from. It’s hinted, though never really shown, that Wong is also a supreme badass. So, maybe we’ll get to see his Kato side after all.
The most spectacular sequence in the footage we saw was the sequence glimpsed just the beginning of in the trailers where the Ancient One knocks Strange’s astral form out of his physical body Matrix-style. The extended sequence has her knocking his entire physical body into a progressive sequence of other dimensions that are hard to describe in words as they’re very abstract in their imagery. One particular sequence was a world made up of nothing by a sea of hands. As Strange floats there in midair, one of the hands grabs him and then a multitude of other arms grab him and engulf him. This leads to him morphing into a humanoid shape made up of these arms and then things continue to get weirder from there. The entire sequence goes on for about a minute, but feels longer and then Strange is finally returned to his reality in Tibet with the Ancient One. This sequence is probably the closest we’ll get to seeing the comics in motion. The audience we saw this with was quite audibly enthralled and we’d have to agree with their sentiment. Oh, and there’s a callback to Ant-Man as one of the dimension we see him in is the one that Ant-Man shrunk down into at the end of that film.
The latter part of the overall footage is a compilation of quick action sequences where we get to see Strange in full sorcerer mode as he fights his way through an Inception inspired landscape. It’s pretty cool actually and shows off some elaborate strategy on display. It’s not just about the world warping around our characters, they actually warp reality as part of the battle. One quick sequence illustrates this well as we witness a chase sequence down the street in New York. Mordo and Strange are trying to escape their pursuers by creating a magical portal that they intend on running through, but Mikkelsen’s character, using magic, tilts the street just as our characters were about to reach the portal and they instead end up sliding down the folding landscape away from their escape.
Geek sidenote: We get to see Strange’s magical cloak brought to life at various points and it seems to have a personality of its own as it unilaterally saves him from a falling death at one point in the footage. It’s all very comicbooky — in a good way. We get a very brief glimpse at the eye of agamotto activating. Feels a heck of a lot like it could be our next Infinity gem. We got a glimpse at what could be possibly, maybe, Dormammu. Doesn’t look like him per say, but he’s shown in a very appropriate way to who/what he is in the comics. Last, but not least we get to see Stan Lee’s cameo. It’s cute as usual, but I won’t spoil it for you.
There’s a lot more detail that I’m leaving out from the footage we saw so rest assured you haven’t been completely spoiled. It’s safe to say though that the mediocre trailers that have been released for this film so far can be safely ignored. The film looks really solid and just based on the few minutes witnessed, there’s more than enough reason to catch this on the big screen next month.