Doctor Strange, the fourteenth entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), hits theaters November 4th and already there are claims from around the internet that it will be the film that finally “kills” Marvel. On a conceptual level, Doctor Strange is certainly one of Marvel’s riskier film ventures to date, as it’s based on an obscure character with a weird set of powers that are difficult to translate effectively to the screen, so it’s understandable why some people are not confident in the film’s chances.
Still, to claim that Doctor Strange will be a total failure for Marvel—financially or critically—is patently ridiculous. After all, this is the same studio that made successful, entertaining movie about a gang of intergalactic misfits that counted a talking raccoon and sentient tree among its roster, so why should one based on a magical space wizard be any different? Doctor Strange could very well be a dismal failure—pretty much every movie has that chance—but it is much more likely that it will represent another win for Marvel. Here are a few reasons why.
10. Benedict Cumberbatch
Anyone who is doubting whether Doctor Strange can pull audiences in is seemingly forgetting that it stars one of Hollywood’s most popular leading men right now. For starters, having Cumberbatch play Stephen Strange is about as perfect as superhero casting gets and he’s pretty much guaranteed to become synonymous with the character much like Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans have with Iron Man and Captain America, respectively.
It’s also important to remember that Cumberbatch is beloved in pretty much every circle in fandom, thanks in large part to his starring role in the BBC’s Sherlock, and fans of his work are going to flock to see this new film. Of course, that’s still only going to make up a small portion of this film’s total audience, but it’s still a bit absurd to think that a blockbuster film starring Benedict Cumberbatch in 2016 is going to turn out to be some kind of massive failure because that just simply won’t be the case.
9. Visually Exciting
One need only watch the trailers for Doctor Strange to see that it is one of Marvel’s most visually exciting movies and a lot of this has to do with the trippy subject matter the film is tackling. This will be the first Marvel movie to not only introduce magic, but the concept of multiple dimensions as well. According to Marvel’s Kevin Feige, this is an undertaking the studio is not taking lightly, to the point where legendary artist Steve Ditko’s original Doctor Strange comics from the 1960s are being used heavily for inspiration.
“Steve Ditko is one of the greatest Marvel artists in history, and that we’re now able to take what he put in the mid-’60s in these trippy comic panels and comic covers and we now have the technology to put that into big three-dimensional space on a movie screen is amazing,” said Feige. “And we’re not pulling back.” It remains to be seen how well Doctor Strange will hold up against other Marvel movies in terms of the strength of its narrative, but regardless, it’s easily going to be the most visually dynamic film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date.
8. It’s Secretly A Kung-Fu Movie
Although the trailers have teased it a bit, you’d be forgiven for not noticing that Doctor Strange is designed like a kung-fu movie at heart. As director Scott Derrickson explains, the film is heavily influenced by martial arts and he feels that this is a style that works well when combined with supernatural elements. The film’s fight scenes will be have martial arts elements in them, and when combined with flashier magic elements, there’s a good chance that Doctor Strange will have some of the most visually interesting fight scenes in the MCU.
7. Mads Mikkelsen Is The Villain
2016 is turning out to be a spectacular year for Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, as he has prominent roles in two of the biggest films of the year—Doctor Strange and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. While Mikkelsen isn’t a household name by any stretch, anyone familiar with his past work knows that his presence instantly elevates anything he is in, especially when he is cast as a villain.
Mikkelsen turned in one of the best villainous performances in recent memory on three seasons of the short-lived, but incredible NBC series Hannibal, and while his Doctor Strange villain Kaecillius is unlikely to achieve the same levels of notoriety or fandom, he could potentially be one of Marvel’s most interesting villains so far. Admittedly, given the somewhat lackluster crop the studio has had so far, this isn’t as difficult a job as it appears, but it’s still great to live in a world in which Mads Mikkelsen gets to play a comic book villain.
6. Actually, The Casting Is Brilliant Across The Board
Look, let’s just set aside the controversy surrounding the casting of Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One for a minute and admit that she is one of the finest actresses of her generation and we’re lucky to be seeing her in a Marvel movie at all. As much as it would have been nice to see an Asian actor play a traditionally Asian character, it’s still great to see a woman filling the shoes of a role meant for a man at the same time, so things are at least somewhat balanced there.
Looking past Swinton, the rest of the cast is uniformly excellent: we have Rachel McAdams playing a nurse named Christine Palmer who may or may not become Night Nurse from the comics; Chiwotel Ejiofor as Baron Mordo before he was a Doctor Strange villain, Benedict Wong as a reimagined Wong (he’s no longer a manservant but a Master of the Mystic Arts). Honestly, this might be one of the best casts of the year and that alone makes Doctor Strange worth checking out.
5. We Still Don’t Really Know What’s Going On
One of the more refreshing things about Doctor Strange and the way it’s been marketed so far is that, unlike most other blockbusters (including other Marvel movies) it doesn’t feel like the trailers have given everything away. Sure we know the basic outline of the movie: doctor gets in accident, trains to become sorcerer supreme, has to stop bad sorcerer; but when it comes to the details, it’s been pretty easy to stay relatively unspoiled unless you read every interview and dig into every story.
Admittedly, not really knowing what to expect with Doctor Strange could lead audiences to avoid it, but at the same time, this lack of knowledge could also be to the film’s benefit. Moviegoers want familiar experiences but they also somewhat paradoxically crave new ideas as well, and Doctor Strange has the potential to deliver both, since it’s a bold new journey in a film universe that audiences already know and love.
4. It’s Mostly A Standalone Affair
While Stephen Strange is connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and will pop up in other films down the line, his first movie has been designed as a standalone piece of sorts and that could end up working to its benefit. Doctor Strange is comparable to how Guardians of the Galaxy was its own separate thing within the larger Marvel universe and that was an intentional decision designed to help ease audiences into the complex lore of the character.
“If you didn’t know this movie was connected to 13 movies before it, nothing in this movie would indicate that was the case,” Kevin Feige told IGN earlier this year. “This is very much a standalone introduction to a very complex character and a very complex world, which through this movie and until maybe some upcoming movies is relatively self-contained.”
3. A New Kind Of Hero For The MCU
One of the main themes uniting most of the films in the MCU is friendship or strength in numbers. We’ve seen countless examples of Marvel’s heroes finding strength in numbers and thanks to how interconnected everything is, it’s easy for any of these films to be a collaborative affair involving multiple characters. While Stephen Strange is set to help out the Avengers in the upcoming Infinity War with Thanos, he is primarily a lone wolf. Part of the reason for this is his own personality, as he is introduced as an arrogant, intelligent, and witty man not unlike Tony Stark; personality traits that many would find disagreeable. But it also has to do with Strange being an outsider on account of his powers, as his identity as a wielder of the mystical arts means that his concerns transcend that of normal human experience.
In fact, Strange actually sits out the Civil War in the comics because he considers it a petty squabble unworthy of his attention, so it’s safe to say that we probably won’t be seeing Strange interact with the earthbound heroes of the MCU very often—he has much bigger fish to fry.
2. Expanding The Marvel Universe
One of the most exciting elements of Doctor Strange that is ironically also a cause for concern for some is that it will expand the Marvel Cinematic Universe in more ways than one. As previously mentioned, the film is introducing magic for the first time, as well as the concept of inter-dimensional travel. If successful, Doctor Strange could open up even more opportunities for Marvel to mine even weirder and more obscure characters and storylines from their comics. While some may be resistant to the idea of the MCU adopting these sorts of elements, the fact that multiple dimensions will now be canonically part of this universe not only gives Marvel the keys to expanding the kinds of stories they tell, but could also help solve some very real world problems, such as the eventual exit of franchise stars such as Robert Downey Jr.
How so? Well, if Tony Stark the character exists in multiple dimensions, than that means that he is essentially immortal and Marvel could simply bring a different version of the character (with a different actor playing him) over if they decide to keep him around after Downey leaves. Essentially, Doctor Strange expands Marvel’s options on a number of fronts and that is a potentially exciting proposition.
1. They’ve Had Success With Riskier Ideas
Hey, remember when Guardians of the Galaxy was announced and everyone thought Marvel had lost their mind? Two years later, it’s still considered one of the MCU’s best. How about last year, when Ant-Man came out and people started declaring that Marvel had truly jumped the shark? It’s one of Marvel’s funniest and most endearing films.
When you think about it, Marvel has proven time and again that they can make compelling, entertaining movies out of even the most obscure and ridiculous comic book character, so why is there this expectation that Doctor Strange is going to be the film that finally does the studio in? Guardians and Ant-Man were both arguably riskier propositions than Doctor Strange is and those movies did just fine (in fact, both have sequels in the works). The day may come when Marvel puts out a film that finally breaks their winning streak but it’s hard to see it being this film that does it.