On a mid-October Friday morning at Beverly Hills’ Montage Hotel, cast members of Marvel’s new masterpiece, Doctor Strange, are seated on a long blue couch within one of the building’s many conference rooms. A gigantic size poster of the film serves as their backdrop while a bright light steadily focuses on them.
Benedict Cumberbatch (Dr. Stephen Strange); Rachel McAdams (Christine Palmer); Tilda Swinton (The Ancient One); Mads Mikkelsen (Kaecilius); Benedict Wong (Wong), director Scott Derrickson and producer Kevin Feige are all here to promote the film, which arrives in theaters Friday (Nov. 4).
When Doctor Strange fell into Derrickson’s hands, his mission was to create something as beautiful and compelling as what comic book artist/writer, Steve Ditko, created in 1963 for Marvel. “The challenge was to make a movie that is as visually progressive by movie standards as the Ditko art was in the sixties,” he said.
It’s a major feat, but Derrickson exceeded his expectations and made an intergalactic world infused with the realms of real-life vignettes and science fiction situations. Besides the warping action and high-flying stunts, a great storyline lies within. Dr. Stephen Strange is a super successful surgeon, but at the same time, he’s super successful at being an egomaniac. He gets stripped down from his venomous, self-serving personality when an accident cripples him.
Prior to the mishap, his life in present day New York City was spent saving lives and possibly in an on-and-off again romance with his colleague, Christine Palmer. “My mom is a nurse and I did not inherit that gene, which is why I’m up here,” quips McAdams as she explains how interesting it was to shadow a neurosurgery nurse in Toronto to help her prepare for the role.
Unfortunately, you’ll only see Palmer towards the beginning of the film. McAdams does an amazing job at portraying such a caring and selfless character. You get the sense she wants to save Strange from himself, but can only do so much.
In efforts to search for peace and self-reflect, Strange goes on a mission inside his mind to look for himself, and embarks on a physical journey to the Far East where he studies and practices to become a better person. That’s where The Ancient One and Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), come into play. After Dr. Strange appears in Nepal, Mordo becomes a noble friend and guide for Stephen. The Ancient One also provides him with a heavy dose of toughness.
There’s warping, and a rich infusion of color schemes intertwined into mixed galaxies that make you feel like you’re being sucked into another world (with the addition of high definition 3D glasses). It’s trippy, but brilliant and filled with Tutting, a hand technique the actors had to learn for all the crazy distortion to compliment the graphic effects. (See: JayFunk on YouTube)
Amidst the visual psychedelia, Derrickson flirts behind the scenes at the creator’s table with present day pop-culture and comedy. You’ll laugh at Wong listening to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” or random mentions of the search engine Wikipedia.
In hindsight, Derrickson crafted a masterpiece for those who seek a deeper meaning in life, or those who are just longtime Marvel geeks. He doesn’t disappoint. “The strongest message is that with your mind you have the power to change your reality, and that is a great, powerful, ego-less message,” Cumberbatch concludes.