Why Doctor Strange Could Cause Big Problems For Marvel

In 2016, the Marvel Cinematic Universe will welcome Doctor Strange, a magical man in a giant, red cape who summons the powers of ancient gods and demons to do mystical stuff to bad guys. Doctor Strange is a very important part of Marvel's history, having been around for almost as long as Spider-Man and Iron Man, but if the Master of the Mystic Arts sounds like a weird twist to the normally grounded world of Marvel movies, well, that's because he is. So, what kind of problems does the Doctor Strange movie present to the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

He's A Magic Man

So far, Marvel has been very careful about the inclusion of things like "magic" or "ancient gods" into their insular movie world. All of the magical stuff in Thor is attributed to aliens and technology, and the powers of Scarlet Witch in Avengers: Age of Ultron are explained away as an effect of the "cosmic energy" of Loki's super-techno scepter. With all of this tip-toeing around the use of magic or the mention of anything even vaguely religious in the MCU, how will the filmmakers explain the powers of Doctor Strange? If they pull the whole Asgardian tech thing again, fans will surely storm out of the theaters.

Highway To Hell

Marvel has to allow Doctor Strange to use his magical powers, because frankly, the guy is no good in a fist fight—or even a foot race to the kitchen. Fans want the magic of Doctor Strange to bear some resemblance to the flashy stuff he uses in the comics, which is a combination of ancient artifacts and fancy spells, many of which draw their power from demons. The guy has to make a lot of deals with a lot of devils so he can do amazing stuff, and that message probably won't be too popular with the moms in the audience, or with the movie's rating.

Bad To The Bone

All heroes have to come with an arch-nemesis, but Marvel often tanks in that department by creating bad guys who are just evil versions of the hero. Unfortunately, Doctor Strange's main villain follows the same formula. Human word-jumble Chiwetelu Umeadi Ejiofor has been cast to play the villainous and jealous Baron Mordo, another guy who uses magic and was also trained by Strange's mentor. But if Marvel wants to break out of their predictable rut, it's going have to start bringing on some better bad guys. Like Dormammu, please.

Those Clothes

The good Doctor wears one of the craziest costumes in all of comics, with a collar that puts Wolverine's excessive mask to shame, and sleeves more appropriate for a parachute suit. MC Hammer has nothing on this guy. Of course, he was originally created in the 1960s, and artist Steve Ditko was, well, Steve Ditko—he's been about as eccentric as comic book artists get. Still, the costume has barely changed in 50 years, so Ditko definitely built some longevity into its design. Marvel's on-screen version has to be ostentatious and remind viewers of the comics, but not so ridiculous that it completely ruins the film. That costume designer has a lot of work to do.

Doctor Jerk

Doctor Strange isn't generally written as a likeable character. in his comic book origin story, he's an arrogant surgeon whose hands are damaged in a car accident, ending his career. He learns magic and humility, but never really shakes the arrogance thing. Much of his charm, if he has any, comes from seeing him interact with more grounded characters, many of whom are bewildered by his never-ending talk about "other realms" and yoga stuff. Unless the Master of Black Magic has some good friends, he might be tough to watch. Imagine House, but without any of the other doctors. Or patients.

Magic Is Weird

In comics, magic is awesome. Illustrators draw giant swirling, glowing clouds of stuff while narration explains what each puff or zap is doing. Internal monologues ramble on, and for a while, Marvel even included little Magic For Dummies notes alongside Doctor Strange's spells to keep them interesting and clear. Without some kind of exposition, on-screen magic is boring. Gandalf and Saruman looked like a couple of old geezers air-wrestling, and on-screen magic barely worked better for Harry Potter. So, what's going to change this time?

Oh, The Horror

Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson is known for his work on horror films, including Hellraiser: Inferno and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, so you know stuff is going to get dark. He hasn't directed anything that isn't explicitly terror-based, but if the Marvel Cinematic Universe introduces pants-wetting fear to its repertoire, things will change. While it would be fine to throw some fear into the mix, Marvel makes sure that fans have to see every single movie. Plenty of comic and action fans will skip this movie if it's too scary. Real life is already spooky enough.

Where Has He Been?

The problem with The Avengers' giant alien attack on Manhattan is that it should have summoned every living hero to the city to defend it, or even help reconstruct it, but right now, Marvel doesn't seem to be sure if it actually knows if any other heroes exist. Agents of SHIELD avoids mentioning any big movie names, and it seems weird that every hero on Earth would have an origin story that happens after the siege of New York. You can only pull an Ant-Man retcon so many times. So, how will Marvel explain the absence of Strange when he finally shows up?