Doctor Strange cast a spell on IMAX theaters Monday, with 15 minutes of footage screening for fans across the country. Heat Vision was among the packed crowd at a Los Angeles theater, with one group of men so entranced that they swore it hadn't been a full 15 minute (it was).
Some impressions from of the Marvel Studios film...
The tone: There's a lot of comparison's to be made here - with the pre-accident Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) cocky and arrogant - a little bit like House (Hugh Laurie) meets Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) with a tiny dose of Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holme's thrown in. He's a lot of fun to watch. Early in the footage, Strange has some flirtations with former flame Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) and it's clear that his ego is why they aren't together anymore. (She dubs the "Strange rule" as why she no longer dates colleagues.) Soon, he's involved in the car crash that will take away his ability to perform surgery, and he's traveling to meet The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), who in an insanely trippy sequence introduces Strange to the Astral Plane. There's a bit of The Matrix and early parts of Batman Begins here - but the fresh visuals remind you that this is something that couldn't have been made in 1999 or 2005 - you really feel like this is the pinnacle of what can be done with movie technology today. Speaking of visuals…
The visuals: Early comparisons were made between Strange and Christopher Nolan's Inception, which turned heads with images of cityscapes folding into the sky. But Strange (inspired by creator Steve Ditko's art) is Inception to the nth degree. Monday's screening featured an extended chase scene featuring Strange and Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) fleeing from the villain Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) across cityscapes in different realities folding in on themselves. The chase is one of those rare moviegoing experiences (like Inception was) where you are seeing something truly new on the big screen. It's the type of mind-bending thing you instantly want to watch again - not because the imagery is unclear, but because you feel like there must be intricacies that you're missing. Quite a few big budget films that feature action where just can't follow what's going on (2009's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen comes to mind). Then there are others - like Mad Max: Fury Road - where there's a clear story to the action and you are brought along with it. So far, it looks like Doctor Strange is in the latter category.
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The villains: One of the most promising possibilities for Doctor Strange is Mordo - who Derrickson has hinted will at some point (in this film or the next) go from ally of Strange to his enemy. Seeing Strange and Mordo working together in that extended chase scene - plus the charming "that's our wifi password" line we've seen in the trailers - suggests it really will be painful when these two are at odds.
Wong: One of the big question marks coming into the film would be how Doctor Strange would handle some of the more problematic elements of the 1960s-era creation, which featured problematic portrayals of Asian characters, in particular Strange's manservant Wong. The IMAX footage featured a scene with Wong (Benedict Wong) that showed off the modern update of the character, and it was among the most engaging scenes shown. This version of Wong, rather than being a manservant to Strange, is smarter than the good doctor (or at least, he knows this world better than Strange does). He is the keeper of the mystic books, and warns Strange that if he takes one without permission, Wong will know … and Strange will die. Without missing a beat, Strange wonders if there were a lesser penalty for a simple late fine (say some sort of other bodily harm?). Wong isn't amused, and suddenly Strange realizes he can't charm everyone. Their relationship looks like it's going to be a lot of fun to watch unfold.
Doctor Strange hits theaters Nov. 4.
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