Hoping for an Extra Dose of Weird from Doctor Strange

By  · Published on July 26th, 2016

Let this be the first Marvel movie that gets truly bizarre. Yes, even more so than that one with a city-sized alien head for a homebase.

Comic-Con ended Sunday (sad face) and left a bountiful bevy of movie and television trailers for all the nerds of the world like me to feast upon. There’s the WWI one about a certain titular female, the big monkey one, the one with that guy and his kitty, and the other one where some kids get lost in the woods. The trailer that gave me the most pause, however, was Marvel’s next in line superhero film Doctor Strange, as seen below:

I grew up on X-Men and Spiderman, Batman and Superman, so I had to do a little research on what this Doctor Strange dude is all about. Apparently, he’s a guy that harnesses magical artifacts called dope things like the Book of the Vishanti or the Orb of Agamatto, and he conjures weaponry to wield kung-fu style when he gets tired of just straight magicking from afar. Both of those things are awesome. He fights in alternate dimensions and mystical realms and has antagonists with names like Nightmare and Dormammu. That makes him even more awesome. What I’ve read about Doctor Strange easily makes him the, uhh, strangest of the Marvel entries, which is why I’m so concerned about the by-the-books (by-the-comic-books?) narrative structure that’s made evident in this latest trailer.

All of these superhero movies are just a slightly rejiggered version of the hero’s journey in order to keep the entirety of the Marvel-verse in perpetuity. I get that. You’ve gotta milk the money cow ’til it’s dead, and knowing the Hollywood industry, you keep on milkin’ ’til the decomposition sets in, too. So, because we know there’s no real concern over the protagonist and whether he lives or dies, wins or loses, why not go as unconventional as possible in-between the standard beats?

Take a film like Ant-Man: the best sequence in that movie was when Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang couldn’t stop himself from getting exponentially smaller and smaller, all the way into an obtuse, quantum type state. It was visually stunning and abstract, and emotionally tense and surprising. Yeah, we knew he’d make it back to normal Paul Rudd size eventually, but those two minutes of existential crisis were palpable.

“’Take a left at the polygon.’ Thanks a lot, Ancient One.”

I mean, look at this crazy environment that Doctor Strange finds himself in. What the hell is even going on here? I don’t know, but I’m intrigued. Doctor Strange controls magic and visits other realities. The audience deserves more than the trailer’s fractal pattern manipulation and pseudo-inspired visual effects à la the second best part of Inception (that hallway scene was perf’).

Also, introduction of magic into these Marvel movies might pose a different dilemma. Telling a coherent, more traditional type story gets understandably difficult the further you take the characters away from a grounded reality. A world that allows magic, or at least a world not bound by certain physical laws, creates a narrative challenge that even the greatest of tales suffer from. Like, why the hell didn’t Harry Potter and friends use that Time-Turner for a thousand other, more important things other than for Hermione to take a couple extra classes because, ha-ha, she’s a nerd? Oh no, Aragorn and pals are in mortal danger! Loljk! Because of magic, random deus ex machina armies of dead and giant eagle pets are here to save the day at the expense of the story, so no worries. You could argue that Thor’s movies already introduced this dynamic, but I always understood his world’s phenomena to be more like alien technology. Maybe it’s just semantics. Even more reason to get really f’n weird in Doctor Strange.

If Darren Aronofsky were directing this in the same vein as Noah, we’d go absurd. This guy took one of the most tepid stories in the Bible and created an epic of giant battling angels made of rock and acid trips. Hopefully, director Scott Derrickson crafts this yarn like a fever dream. And I’ll watch any film where Archibald Scoobysnack and Mads Mikkelson battle. (Yes, I know they whitewashed the part of the Ancient One, but if you’re gonna do it, you can’t choose a better actress than the chameleon Tilda Swinton.) I really hope this movie blows my mind. With magic, anything is possible.

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