Earlier this year, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we heard the name Stephen Strange for the first time in the Marvel films. This was uttered by the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent turned mole Jasper Sitwell when he was being interrogated atop a terrace, where he mentioned some of the names identified by HYDRA for elimination. It was just a simple ‘drop of the name’ but its implications were more profound. It guaranteed that Stephen Strange did exist in the Marvel cinematic universe the way he does in the Marvel comics. And the likelihood of a movie around him increased. Well, the movie plans are certainly firm now!
Before we venture into the film world, know a thing or two about Dr. Stephen Strange aka Doctor Strange, and why the prospect of a movie around him is so exciting. Doctor Strange brings a whole new personality to the Marvel universe, something quite different from the Marvel superheroes we have seen so far. His history in the comics depicts him as a cold and callous individual, someone highly egoistical, attracted by wealth and power. Nonetheless, he is a highly qualified neurosurgeon. But an accident changes much of his career plans. He is no longer able to conduct surgeries, and soon enters a state of destitution. The depression drives him to the Himalayas in search of a hermit called the Ancient One for a cure. The hermit refuses though, but offers to teach him lessons in mysticism. Stephen Strange declines the offer initially, but certain events follow which make him believe in external mystical powers, and soon he becomes the apprentice of the Ancient One. And thus is born the superhero Doctor Strange. A sorcerer.
Doctor Strange opens the realm of mysticism for the Marvel cinematic universe. It offers something beyond the ultra-cool gadgets of Tony Stark and something different than the magic of Asgard. Bringing in the mythical aspects would be quite tricky though, and would have to be carefully treated so that the movie franchise is continued to be taken seriously. But Marvel do seem to know what is at stake here, and have enrolled horror-director Scott Derrickson to helm their project, making their intentions quite clear of how they plan to deal with this topic. Derrickson had made his film debut with The Exorcism of Emily Rose, then worked on the sci-fi feature film The Day the Earth Stood Still, before moving back to the horror genre with Sinister and has another horror thriller film titled Deliver Us From Evil slated for a release this year. So in brief, Scott Derrickson is not someone who makes funny movies. His work is hardly likely to resemble anything that Joss Whedon does, and his movies aren’t ones with lot of bright colours. It is a departure for Marvel from its usual style of movies, though in all fairness, the studio has already been on that path. Bringing in Shane Black for Iron Man 3 brought a different take on the superhero as compared to the previous Jon Favreau movies. Introduction of the Russo brothers for Captain America: The Winter Soldier gave the film a completely different edge as compared to the other Marvel works. Bringing in Scott Derrickson could also give the movie around Doctor Strange a whole new feel, which is much required to make the character stand out in this growing superhero universe. But it would be a challenge for Derrickson as well to embrace the “fun” element that Marvel movies carry, while directing something with supernatural elements.
The next big question would be on who plays Doctor Strange. Deadline reports that high on the wishlist of the studio are two popular names, those of Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch. Wow! Both these young actors are riding high on their acting talent as well as their mix of movie choices ranging from the popular big-budget ones to the obscure category which allow an actor to display his prowess a fraction more. Either of these names, though they aren’t the only ones being reported, would bring more attention to Doctor Strange movie undoubtedly. One can easily imagine these two actors pulling off an egoistical neurosurgeon turned into a supreme sorcerer with ease, though I would tip my hat towards Tom Hardy suiting this role more. And having already played Bane, the villain from the DC comics, in The Dark Knight Rises, a role in the outfit of a Marvel superhero would look good on the resume too!
There are no release dates announced yet, though Marvel has kept two dates on hold for unannounced titles, which are in July 2016 and May 2017. Marvel’s Phase-III will kick off next year itself with Ant-Man and if the studio picks up pace, then a Doctor Strange movie could very well be in line for a 2016 release. Even if it is a year later than that, we will still patiently wait, for there is so much that this new character can bring to the superhero world. So take your time, Marvel, but get it right!