Trailer Breakdown: Dr. Strange Teaser Trailer

Last night Marvel debuted the first trailer for Dr. Strange. Technically, it’s a teaser trailer. But at two minutes long, what’s the difference? I suppose it’s that it isn’t really digging into the plot or supporting cast. It’s just hinting at the ideas behind in. So in that regard, I’d call this a good teaser. The imagery is very much like Matrix or Inception, but that’s perfectly in keeping with the original Steve Ditko trippy art. Let’s take a look at some of the key shots to see what we can figure out about which characters are in the movie and what it might be about!

ds01 benedict cumberbatch as dr strange in accident

We start with disorienting shots and it’s quickly apparent that we’re looking at a car crash and we’re actually underwater. This is the inciting event that starts Dr. Steven Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) on a journey. We’ll see several shots here that are taken straight from Dr. Strange’s origin in Strange Tales #115 (December, 1963) by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee. The character was created by Ditko in Strange Tales #110. Note that his hands are in the foreground. There’s a lot of focus on them in this trailer.

ds02 strange in car accident

Steven is an extremely talented but arrogant surgeon who gets in a car accident which breaks his hands, ruining his career. Dr. Strange is one of Marvel’s earliest superheroes and while his title has been on and off over the years, he’s always been a key player in the Marvel comics, as he is the master of the mystic arts. He gets to be part of the universe but because he deals in magic, he sort of has his own corner to play with.

ds03 strange travels to the east

Here’s Dr. Strange in Nepal. After his car accident, Strange’s hands are permanently damaged. He basically defined himself by his work so he’s desperate to find a way to repair the damage and turns to alternative medicine, traveling the world in search of potential cures. The movie actually filmed in Nepal.

ds04 strange touches charms in nepal

Here’s a shot of his wrapped and damaged hands brushing against some charms. It’s important to know that Dr. Strange is a man of science, so he’s not really a believer in things like magic or holistic cures, but he’s grasping at anything that can restore his life.

ds05 rachel mcadams in dr strange

A quick shot of Rachel McAdams who plays one of Steven’s colleagues at his hospital. No character name has been given yet, but there’s a good chance she’s strongly based on the comic book character Night Nurse, aka Linda Carter. When Netflix’ Daredevil cast Rosario Dawson, she was intended to play Linda Carter, the Night Nurse. But the movie division said they had plans for Carter so Daredevil changed it to Claire Temple, a doctor and supporting character in the early Luke Cage comics. Linda Carter/Night Nurse was originally a character in 1970s Marvel comics that were a pure drama set in a hospital. But in 2004, writer Brian Michael Bendis brought the character into their mainstream superhero comics by introducing her in Daredevil and explaining that at night she would patch up injured superheroes. Writer Brian K. Vaughan used her in a 5-issue Dr. Strange miniseries called “The Oath” (2006-2007).

ds06 strange pre accident

The teaser trailer focuses on Strange’s life before and after. Before his accident, no facial hair. The world is filled with gold.

ds07 strange post accident

After the crash, he has a patchy beard and the world has gone grey.

ds08 steven strange hands

Again, his hands. His livelihood. They define him.

ds09 steven strange surgeon

One character we don’t see but we know was cast is Michael Stuhlbarg as Steven’s colleague/rival, Dr. Nicodemus West. West was introduced in “The Oath” story as the surgeon who worked on Steven’s hands after the accident and wasn’t able to repair them. He also goes looking for answers elsewhere and becomes a backup student in the mystic arts in case Steven failed. But Nicodemus actually quits and goes back to his life as a surgeon. An interesting character that I doubt this movie has the space to explore but maybe he could be utilized in a sequel.

ds10 strange has shaky hands

And here’s a contrasting shot to Steven in his surgical gloves. Now, his hands tremble slightly. He can use them, but not to perform delicate operations.

ds11 strange in hospital bed

It looks like not only are his hands and arms shattered but he may even be in a coma from his humbling accident.

ds12 new york city

New York City from the sky and it’s grey…

ds13 nepal city

And Nepal from the sky but it’s gold. Perhaps color returns to the film when Steven goes exploring the world for answers to his plight.

ds14 nepal temple

Here’s a temple in Nepal, but not, I suspect THE temple that he’ll eventually find in the Himalayan Mountains. This one is too close to civilization.

ds15 mordo in chinatown

This is our first shot of Chiwetel Ejiofor who is playing Baron Mordo in the movie. In the comics, Mordo is a pupil of the Ancient One before Steven arrives and basically takes his place as the next Sorceror Supreme of the world. Mordo was not a good person but the Ancient One decided that at best, he could help Mordo find his way to becoming good and at worst, at least he’d keep an eye on Mordo who had serious mystical talent. In the movie, it looks like Mordo is not a straight-up villain, or at least not from the get go. Instead, he seems to still work beside the Ancient One and/or alongside Steven.

ds16 strange on nepal street

Here’s Steven on his journey. He’s a man out of place and looking a bit haggard.

ds17 ancient one in temple

Our first glimpse of the Ancient One. In the comics, it was an old Asian man, but the movie has gone a different route, casting Tilda Swinton as a more androgynous character. Is this whitewashing? Or is it alleviating some of the mystic Oriental trope? Probably more of the former.

ds18 strange and mordo in temple

This seems to be Mordo (right) and Strange (left) in that same temple. In the center of the mandala on the floor, within the squares, is another orb. Perhaps the symbol of the Eye of Agommato, the powerful talisman that Dr. Strange eventually wears. It allows its wearer to reinforce the barriers between our world and those of demonic dimensions, among other uses.

ds19 tilda swinton as ancient one

A closeup of Tilda Swinton’s bald master.

ds20 ancient one knocks strange into astral plane

And she punches Dr. Strange’s ghost out of his body. Okay, technically she’s allowing his astral form to leave his physical body. This is one of Dr. Strange’s many abilities. He can leave his physical body as a type of invisible ghost to travel anywhere and look in on things. When he does this, his body is vulnerable. In the comics, his valet Wong serves as both his disciple in the supernatural arts and his body’s protector when he astrally projects. Wong is in this movie, played by Benedict Wong but we don’t see him in the teaser. He’s Dr. Strange’s closest ally.

ds21 strange on astral plane

Steven Strange realizes there’s more to the world than what he knows.

ds22 acolyte opens mystic portal

This is a trippy shot of Mads Mikkelson waving his arms and a hallway turns into a bizarre kaleidoscope and seems to open a gateway into another world. We don’t know who Mads is playing but as a fan of the comics, I have two ideas. Press releases have said he leads a cult and was a former student of the Ancient One. That doesn’t match up with any comics character and his look isn’t readily apparent but he could be playing either Dr. Strange’s chief nemesis, the demon Dormammu, or another demon, Satannish. Dormammu is a demon called the Faltine and rules his own dimension. But before he’s a dude with a burning face, he looks human. So maybe he starts off human in this movie? There have been behind-the-scenes shots that show Mads with heavy makeup around his eyes, almost cracking and burning the skin away. Also, he seems to have followers in this and in the comics, Dormammu leads giant monsters called Mindless Ones. Could be a version of that or a version that becomes corrupted. Satannish also had a cult of followers, called the Sons of Satannish. He looked very overtly demonic in the comics, but I suppose he could be masquerading as human. Satannish served Dormammu and worked, along with Mordo, to destroy the barriers between Dormammu’s hellish universe and our own.

The reason I suspect he has something to do with Dormammu is actress Amy Landecker also has an undisclosed role in the film and she dresses similarly. I suspect she could be playing Umar, the sister of Dormammu. Or, less likely but still possible, Clea, his niece who becomes Dr. Strange’s lover in the comics. She also once cheated on him with Ben Franklin.

ds23 ancient one mountain

Here’s the Ancient One and Steven on a mountaintop with a storm a-brewin’. In the comics, Ancient One senses the nobility deep within Strange (he was a doctor after all) and actually causes the storm that keeps Steven stuck on the mountain where he begins training as a sorcerer.

ds24 mads mikkelsen in doctor strange

Another shot of Mad Mikkelson’s character with several disciples around him. The floor and hallways churn and rotate in surreal patterns. Note his dark eyes.

ds25 chase through chinatown

Some sort of a chase at night. But is this in China? Chinatown in New York? I lean towards China because those roads don’t look like New York city streets.

ds26 chiwetel ejiofor as baron mordo

A closeup of Ejiofor as Baron Karl Mordo. Mordo was white in the comics but it isn’t important to the character.

ds27 strange is enlightened

The Ancient One touches Steven’s head and his entire world shifts. He’s becoming enlightened.

ds28 nyc folds over

This was my favorite shot in the trailer. New York starts sectioning itself into cubes. It’s reminiscent of Inception but in more of a way of sectioning the world off into clear but unreal shapes. Look carefully at the open sky in the middle and you can see an object falling. I think it might be Steven, going on an otherworldly journey.

ds29 teach me

Steven falls through the temple’s ceiling in a comedic way and rises up. “Teach me,” he begs. That’s what this one is all about. It’s a great hook.

ds30 dr strange title

The movie will be out this November. I’m looking forward to it. Great character, good cast, interesting visuals. There’s a lot to do with Dr. Strange that’s different from the other superhero movies out there.

ds31 sanctum sanctorum

Finally, a quick shot of Dr. Strange in his full outfit, climbing the stairs in his home on Greenwich Street in New York, which he calls his Sanctum Sanctorum. The pattern on the window is the Seal of the Vishanti, mystical otherwordly beings that grant Steven his magic abilities. It prevents his house from being invaded by most other supernatural threats. It is also a doorway to other worlds. His house is bigger on the inside and can only be seen by those who need Strange’s help. We don’t get a good look at Dr. Strange here but he’s wearing his cloak of levitation. Fun!