With Avengers: Infinity War fast approaching and the confirmation that Dr. Stephen Strange will be part of the team, you might think that Marvel would use Doctor Strange as an opportunity to put Thanos' scheme to collect the fifth and sixth Infinity Stones back on track, in order to complete his Gauntlet and give the Avengers something to really stress about.
But you'd be wrong. In a new interview this week, Marvel's big boss Kevin Feige spoke at length about Doctor Strange, revealing among other things why the movie will have almost zero connection to the wider MCU, whether the Infinity Stones will factor into the plot, and what we can expect from Kaecilius, the mysterious villain dragged up from the deepest depths of Marvel Comics.
Before we get to all that, check out the new IMAX TV spot which sees the Sorcerer Supreme fall headfirst into a series of truly mind-bending realities...
Talking to ScreenRant, Feige set the scene for the world Stephen Strange inhabits:
"One would imagine that anyone living in New York was aware of what had occurred [with the Avengers]. But like in our real life, people go about their daily business ... his job is to be the best neurosurgeon and to take the best cases and to get the most attention and to get the most accolades and that’s what he’s focused on until his accident. So he doesn’t spend a lot of time talking or thinking about The Avengers."
From a character perspective that makes total sense, although it also highlights one of the problems with the MCU — almost every character in this world is super-powered, and we rarely get any sense of what people on the ground, the civilians who read about Captain America in the papers, actually think about superheroes. Even Civil War, a story all about accountability, only gave us an insight into the minds of government agents like General Thunderbolt Ross.
Feige then explained what impact Doctor Strange will have on the wider MCU and the search for the Infinity Stones (spoilers: not much!):
"If you didn’t know this movie was connected to 13 movies before it, nothing in this movie would indicate that was the case. This is very much a standalone introduction to a very complex character and a very complex world ... Although it doesn’t necessarily come up, the sorcerers have bigger fish to fry when they hear there’s [a crime] in a city or a bank being robbed. They’re not thinking about it. They’re thinking 'If we don’t keep vigilant our sense of reality will disappear, and there won’t be a bank to rob and there won’t be a city to be conquered'."
That's quite an interesting take on the ways in which Doctor Strange, in its exploration of the mystical, differs from other superhero movies. By entering a playground of parallel dimensions and realities wildly different from those we know, priorities shift. In some ways that makes the work being done by heroes like Ant-Man and Black Widow look relatively small-fry. Feige also shared a hint about the ultimate goal of Mads Mikkelsen's mysterious villain, Kaecilius:
"Kaecilius [was] a sorcerer within Kamar-Taj, who along with some other of his followers, who are called zealots, defect from Kamar-Taj because they believe The Ancient One is not being truthful in the way that she is teaching magic, is teaching sorcery. They believe she is withholding secrets that should not be withheld, and think that maybe it’s not a bad thing if other dimensions absorb our reality. In fact, that could lead to benefits such as immortality. They may also lead to destroying the entire world as we know it."
Some of the most memorable villains in comic book movies have been those who are on a vengeance mission, or who simply wreak havoc and destruction because they can — the Banes and the Jokers — but too often Marvel villains have lacked solid motivation. It sounds as though Kaecilius won't fall into that trap. The search for something bigger than our own dimension, the possibility of immortality — giving the villain a strong philosophy (however skewed or immoral his methods) should ensure Kaecilius is a far stronger bad guy than somebody like Yellowjacket or Ultron.
Feige also spoke about the distinction between the different Earths of Marvel Comics and the various dimensions encountered within those Earths, which gets pretty complex but could lead to the MCU becoming a far richer place both visually and in terms of storytelling potential:
"I think when comic book fans hear parallel dimensions or multiple dimensions they think of Earth 616 and Earth 617 ... What we’re playing with in this world is there are dimensions ... not just parallel realities, although some of them are, but [for example] the Dark Dimension [which] Dormammu inhabits ... dimensions that are so mind-bending that you can barely perceive them ... dimensions that are just mind trips that the human mind can barely fathom ... Parallel realities [like Earth 617] where there’s a Strange [who] wears Iron Man armor — we’re not there yet.
Considering Feige's earlier comments about Doctor Strange being a "standalone" movie with few MCU connections, it shouldn't be a surprise to learn that the one of the world's leading neurosurgeons isn't about to encounter any Infinity Stones, in his dimension or any other:
"We don’t get into [the Infinity Stones] in this movie because, again, we’ve got a lot to take in ... A lot of new concepts, a lot of new characters, there’s a lot of new mythologies that we didn’t to clutter up by telling you about other MacGuffins."
Despite Feige's denials though, the Eye of Agamotto, an ancient amulet in Strange's possession which allows inter-dimensional travel, has a green-ish hue not entirely dissimilar to the missing Soul Stone. If they are one and the same, that would explain Doctor Strange's involvement in Infinity War — just don't expect this movie to directly address the possibility.
Doctor Strange hits theaters November 4, Avengers: Infinity War following on May 4, 2018.
Could the Eye of Agamotto be the soul stone — and are you stoked for 'Doctor Strange' to take us further into the mystical realm than ever before?