Greetings, True Believers! Welcome to the first installment of MarvelUs – a new, biweekly column for The Marvel Report. As the name suggests, MarvelUs aims to explore and strengthen the deep connection that fans share with Marvel. No discussion topic is off-limits here, so if you’d like to see something discussed in this space in the future – please leave a comment and let us know!
In this first installment, I’ll be discussing preparing for the upcoming Doctor Strange. For the first time since, arguably, Phase One – we have an upcoming origin film for a major Marvel Comics hero. And yet, like Tony Stark prior to the debut of Iron Man in 2008, Stephen Strange doesn’t have the name recognition that some of Marvel’s more universally known characters have. So how does one prepare and build hype for a film starring an unfamiliar character?
Who is Doctor Strange?
For most, Doctor Strange will be the first experience that viewers have with the titular character. Despite being a mainstay in Marvel Comics for decades, there isn’t a huge name recognition that follows the character. Quite simply, Doctor Strange is a B-list hero. “B-list hero” isn’t a moniker to knock the hero – it just simply means he hasn’t yet made it mainstream. He’s in good company, though. Aside from the aforementioned Iron Man, Scott Lang’s Ant-Man and the entire Guardians of the Galaxy crew were all also B-level heroes before their films debuted.
Doctor Strange is also somewhat unique because of his super powers. Whereas many superheroes gain their powers by way of aliens, government tests, or freak accidents – Doctor Strange’s powers revolve around magic. Let’s be honest, powers like astral projection, spell casting, and teleportation don’t quite lend themselves to imaginative visuals like powers associated with flight, super speed, or web slinging. But with today’s visual effects, and the excellent Benedict Cumberbatch bringing the character to life, filmgoers finally have a real opportunity to see the trippy, magic-fueled landscape of Doctor Strange finally brought to life.
Why should I be excited?
Don’t think for a minute that Marvel expects fans to be excited for Doctor Strange simply because it’s the next Marvel film release. Marvel has long worked to earn the respect and loyalty of its fans through high quality films.
A film like Doctor Strange wasn’t created in a vacuum. The Marvel films have been building toward this character for a while. Stephen Strange was name-dropped all the way back in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Viewers are now also familiar with the various Infinity Stones thanks to Guardians of the Galaxy and the looming threat of Thanos – and it certainly seems that Doctor Strange’s magical artifact, the Eye of Agamotto, could be another Infinity Stone. If so, it would tie the character deeply into the overarching Marvel film lore. We’re all excited for Avengers: Infinity War, and even if it’s only slightly – Doctor Strange is going to help set the stage for that film.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with Doctor Strange. The trailers have highlighted the fact that this film will be trippy. The imagery of floating cities, the kaleidoscope view of reality, magic powers, and even a bald Tilda Swinton – it’s all a lot to take in. But it should also go without saying that Marvel isn’t going to leave its fans in a lurch. Doctor Strange will, to a certain extent, hold our hands. It will explain the concepts behind this new hero, and leave us both comfortable and also excited for future appearances of the character.
Of course, the cast also can’t be underestimated. Benedict Cumberbatch is a brilliant actor, and the supporting cast of the film (including Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, and Tilda Swinton) are incredibly talented, oscar caliber actors with long, impressive resumes.
What can I do to better prepare?
A very easy way to prepare for Doctor Strange is to watch Agents of SHIELD. Right from the first episode of this new season, the show made it clear that magic was the driving force this go-around. From trailers for Doctor Strange, we’ve seen that Mads Mikkelsen’s character (Kaecilius) has some kind of corruption around his eyes. This same ocular corruption occurs to characters in Agents of SHIELD as the magic plot line continues to unfold. Once again, the idea that #ItsAllConnected continues to play out on television.
Some find comfort in preparing for a new superhero by diving into the comics. Nothing builds excitement like knowing the character ahead of time and having a connection already built-in. As someone unfamiliar with Doctor Strange, I won’t pretend to offer any advise on what to check out. But it’s safe to say that your local comic shop will definitely recommend good stories (mine recommends Doctor Strange: The Oath as a definitive story for the character). Don’t be surprised to see The Marvel Report put out a recommended reading list too.
It’s also worth noting that Marvel has a long list of phenomenal films that have blown away expectations. I don’t think anyone really expected Iron Man to be the brilliant start to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even after an incredible track record, many were incredibly skeptical that Guardians of the Galaxy could continue the Marvel line of successes. And Ant-Man, which long suffered in developmental hell and had a last-minute director change, introduced audiences to a great comedic superhero in a film that has a real heart of gold.
The Marvelous Unknown
Look, some are hesitant when confronted with the unknown. Movies are expensive, and although Marvel films in general have focused on heroes based on Earth (yes, Guardians of the Galaxy is a wondrous outlier!), Doctor Strange represents the next real shift in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. High-tech machinery, fantasy powers, science-fiction aliens, and magic are all about to collide and bend genres in future Marvel films. We know that Avengers: Infinity War is coming, and with it comes everything that Marvel is, and everything it hopes to be in the future. Doctor Strange is an important building block for the upcoming battle against Thanos.
With each new film, Marvel continues to create bonafide hits that fans adore. Even if the box offices numbers aren’t on the level of Avengers or Iron Man films, box office returns have not swayed Marvel. Thor and Captain America are two characters that have exploded in popularity since their first films, and Ant-Man appeared in Captain America: Civil War and stole every scene he was in. There’s nothing to fear with Doctor Strange.
Doctor Strange releases in theaters on November 4, 2016. It’s time to start building that excitement!