Warning: Spoilers for Doctor Strange below!
Around midnight last week, I stumbled upon a registration site for an advanced screening of Doctor Strange. My euphoria got ahead of me, and I immediately claimed two tickets, texted my ride (and co-viewer), and cleared any plans for the day. After an hour and a half of excitement-induced insomnia, I finally managed to fall asleep. The next morning, I checked my phone to make sure I didn't just dream it. Good news and bad news here: I did get tickets to see some Doctor Strange footage. The bad news: It was a 15 minute preview event, not the full movie.
My disappointment faded away quickly as I realized I was seeing the next best thing. Sure it wasn't the full movie, but it was an IMAX 3D event designed to show off the movie's mind-bending visuals. And on top of that, every audience member got a poster of the IMAX one-sheet.
After settling into our seats and making great use of the exclusive Snapchat filter, the head of Walt Disney marketing in Canada came to the front of the auditorium to introduce the footage. The entire thing played out like an extended (as in very extended) trailer, but that doesn't mean it kept everything tightly under wraps. So here's a comprehensive list of everything that we learned from the footage!
The Ancient One's Past Holds Some Secrets
Tilda Swinton featured pretty heavily on the footage, both as an exposition spewer and sorcerer. In what seemed to be her introductory scene (seen above), we get a couple looks at the top and back of the character's head. Interestingly enough, there were three scars on her. One on top, and two on the back. They're never mentioned, but it may come up at some point in the movie. Could they be from a fight with a previous (or yet to be seen) adversary?
Wong's Role (And Personality)
In the comics, Wong is Doctor Strange's butler and magical sidekick. That's been radically changed for the movie, where he's basically a librarian at the Tibetan complex. We saw a scene where Strange visits the library for a book, only to be warned/vaguely threatened by Wong about what happens if he steals the book: he'll be killed before he leaves the building.
The ever-charming Strange asks what happens if it's overdue, and, met with a straight face, mentions that people used to find him funny. Wong, ever the sass-master, asks if those people worked for him. I'm convinced the scene ended there to spare the audience from seeing Benedict Cumberbatch crying.
That's Definitely The Time Stone
Everyone and their mothers have realized that Doctor Strange's Eye of Agamotto holds an Infinity Stone (liked I predicted back in December), and we see that semi-confirmed in two instances here. It's never referred to by name (or anything that obvious), but we do see a strong focus on the necklace "unlocking" itself to reveal the stone when Strange performs magic.
In another, more blatant tease, we see the stone begin to glow and pulsate as time slows down, eventually going backwards. Perfect timing really, considering Kaecilius was about to stab the Sorceror Supreme. Speaking of him...
A Reference To Civil War
In the few pre-magic Stephen Strange clips we see, the doctor's secretary is fielding patient cases that he could take on. He refuses all the offers, but one of them stood out regardless. The case? A "45 year old Marine Colonel" who "crushed his lower spine in some kind of experimental armor." It doesn't require a lot of brainpower to realize they're talking about War Machine, who was paralyzed after the airport battle in Civil War. Maybe we'll see Strange magically fix Rhodes in Infinity War?
Stan Lee's Cameo!
We see Doctor Strange and Baron Mordo being chased by Kaecilius through the streets of New York, where the pair try to create a portal and escape. Before they can run through it, the villain "rotates" the street, causing them to go flying onto a bus window. We see Strange and Mordo's faces pressed against the glass, with a startled Stan Lee muttering about the two men right outside his window.
Kaecilius Is Drawing Power From The Dark Dimension
In one of the Ancient One's many exposition dumps, she mentions that some sorcerors get their power from "the Dark Dimension", filled with "malice and terror". This dialogue is intercut with a shot of Kaecilius and the Zealots performing a ritual in some sort of temple, with an artifact in front of them. Kaecilius' forehead imprint glows a bright red with the object, implying some sort of power transfer.
... And Has An Army
We've seen three or four henchmen surrounding Mikkelsen in photos and clips from the movie, but today's footage revealed he has more back-up than previously seen. Standing atop a building with an impending climactic battle, Kaecilius is at the forefront of ~20 identically dressed soldiers. With their hoods up and uniform obedience, it's obvious who they're working for.
The Multiverse, In All Its Trippy Glory, Is Here
Early on in the trailer, Swinton drops the M-word. A skeptical Strange listens on as the Ancient One casually explains the power of belief, alternate dimensions, and the functionality of the multiverse. The future Sorcerer Supreme is upset that he wasted the last of resources to meet her, and goes into a screaming fit. And with an eery calmness, the Ancient One pushes Strange in the chest.
We've seen this in the first trailer, but here she tells him that she pushed his Astral-Form out of his physical form, and into the Astral Dimension. She then takes advantage of his stunned silence and flings him through dimensions. This was one of the highlights of the footage for me, based on its sheer originality. To name a few, there's:
- A "hand dimension", which is exactly what it sounds like. Strange is standing a gothic area with dark pillars, until these pillars reach out for him in the form of decaying hands. It turns out everything is made of hands, and they slowly reach for him. When he looks down, we see hands growing off of his fingers. Then hands grow off those fingers, and those fingers too. You get the idea.
- A multicoloured, kaleidoscopic dimension (seen above), where Strange is tossed around like a rag doll, barreling towards and breaking crystals into smaller crystals.
- The previously seen one, where multiple New York Cities are rotating like Rubik's cubes.
There's obviously tons more, but my weak short term memory (paired with my inability to comprehend such vast amounts of CGI) can't remember them.
The Final Battle Includes Everyone (And Spills Across Dimensions)
There's scattered footage of the final battle all over the featurette, which shows that everyone gets their hands dirty. While Doctor Strange is fighting Kaecilius through New York (with some help from Mordo), Wong and the Ancient One take down those identical, hooded soldiers.
The setting of this all is of note too! From what I managed to piece together, the fight includes New York City, Chinatown, the New York dimension, and a mysterious plane where you can see various dimensions. Oh, and at that "mysterious plane," we definitely saw someone very interesting...
Yeah, that Dormammu. When Mads Mikkelsen was initially cast, multiple sites had him pegged as Dormammu, the biggest bad for Doctor Strange. Baron Mordo is Strange's foil, but Dormammu is the main villain. Similar to how Venom is Spider-Man's doppelganger baddie, but Green Goblin is his true enemy. Anyways: Dormammu.
In the last quarter of the footage, everything we see looks to be from the final battle. But there's two snippets that look to be from the very end of it. Try to picture it: Doctor Strange on a floating platform, surrounded by swirling dimensions. The Ancient One is there too in the background. Strange is facing the left, casting spells and creating shields between him and something. It's a massive, mystical being. It's not on the platform, just a being with large, kaleidoscopic eyes. There's no skin to be seen, no fire either. Think of Kaecilius' eyes:
The creature looks like that purple and black stuff around the eyes come to life. It's swirling and glowing, like dark constellations. There's not much to tie the comics Dormammu with this one appearance-wise, but I'm guessing the fire-headed look was skipped to capture the grandeur of the character. The context also justifies the being's identity. When Strange is fighting him, Kaecilius is nowhere to be seen. This led me to believe he had already been defeated, only for Dormammu revealed himself.
The location is also of significance. It's not any earthly setting, nor is it in any dimension of its own. It looks to be between the dimensions themselves. Here's a weird analogy to help you understand what I'm saying: Imagine there's a bunch of marbles suspended in Jell-O. Each one occupies its own space, but none are touching. Now replace the marbles with dimensions, and Jell-O with nothingness. The second snippet shows the being's head pulse, letting out a wave of energy that Strange defends himself from. In fact, we've seen it already at the end of the second trailer:
It Absolutely Has To Be Seen In IMAX
Up until now, the movie's marketing has been pretty light on the mind-bending visuals. Sure the last trailer showed some warped buildings and city blocks turning in on themselves, but it was fairly standard Inception effects. But after this, there's no doubt in my mind that this movie has to be experienced in IMAX. We see dimensions being flung around the screen, powers greater than the heroes themselves, and spells that feel like they're right in front of you.
IMAX tends to make most movies feel immersive, but it's a whole other case with Doctor Strange. The music booms and whispers with the intensity of the scene, the feeling of chaos spills off the screen and makes your heart beat, and magic is like watching a laser light show on LSD. It's bright, it's different, and it's impossible to capture with words.
Visually, Doctor Strange is everything you wanted and more. Not only does it capture the essence of the Ditko-era artwork, but it brings it to life in a way that looks complex and effortless all at once. If you're not going to watch it in theaters, don't watch it at all. You'll ruin the fun.
Do you have any other questions about the Doctor Strange event? Drop them in the comments below!