Today’s Marvel panel absolutely dominated Hall H. It was just loaded with the goods, including first looks at Spider-Man: Homecoming (you can scope my summary here) and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and a new Doctor Strange trailer. But the real treat from Scott Derrickson’s head trip into the realm of inter-dimensional mysticism came in the form of an uncut, long sequence from the Benedict Cumberbatch-led superhero adaptation.
To present the footage, Cumberbatch and Derrickson were joined on stage by cast members Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, Benedict Wong, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Mads Mikkelsen, who teased how their roles have been adapted from the comics. For one thing, Mordo isn’t a straight up rival, but a mentor to Stephen Strange as he undergoes his unique journey to becoming the sorcerer supreme. And as for Mikkelsen’s villain, he certainly doesn’t see himself as one, but rather as a true believer in the teachings of the Ancient One who’s on a mission to shape the universe in his image of what’s most beautiful. While it was nice to hear from the cast, it was the fully-edited scene that stole the show…well, that and the tremendous lightshow that preceded it.
In a move that portends the trippy, mind-bending nature of the film’s material, Marvel kicked off their Doctor Strange presentation by opening the screens across Hall H, and sending billows of smoke down into the audience — smoke that was then used as a secondary projection screen on which streams of light, symbols, and imagery were projected, eventually etching out the Doctor Strange symbol. It was a grand introduction that brought the house to a standing ovation. Marvel sure knows how to put on a show.
Now, to that footage. We open on an overhead shot that scans a city in Tibet where Stephen Strange is desperately searching for The Ancient One’s temple in hopes of healing his recently devastated hands. He asks and asks, pestering people on the street, but no one has the answer. Suddenly he spies a man in a hooded cloak, Mordo, who turns around to offer Strange this advice: “Forget everything you think you know.” They head to “the sanctuary of our Ancient One.” “Does he have a real name?” Strange says with his signature snark before correcting himself (with more snark), “Right, forget everything I think I know, sorry.”
Inside the sanctuary, two of The Ancient One’s disciples immediately remove his coat, one brisks past and hands him a cup, as he heads to a wizened old man meditating nearby, a balding woman comes and pours tea in his cup. He addressed the old man as the ancient one, but it’s the woman pouring his tea who answers. “Mr. Strange,” she greets him. “Doctor, actually,” he replies with another dose of that snark. “Well, no not anymore,” she replies. “Isn’t that why you’re here?”
As she serves his tea, he inquires about rumors that she healed a man with a severed spine. He asks how she corrected such a grievous injury. She insists she didn’t. “He couldn’t walk; I convinced him that he could.” He thinks she’s discovered cellular regeneration, she corrects him. “I know how to reorient the spirit to better heal the body.” He’s skeptical. She shows him a map of the chakras. Now, he’s irritated. “I’ve seen that before…in gift shops.” She shows him a map of acupuncture, and another of an MRI scan. “Each of those was made by somebody who can see the part, but not the whole.”
Now, he’s angry. “We are matter and nothing more,” he says vehemently, his rage growing as he looses hope in being healed. “You think too little of yourself,” she tells him calmly and he comes at her, yelling, “I see through you!” He touches her and in that moment she soul-punches his astral body out of his physical form.
Ever the skeptic, he accuses her of drugging her tea. Mordo looks on, a slight look of amusement on his face. She assures him it’s nothing but tea…well, tea and a little honey. “Open your eyes. Have a good trip, Mr. Strange.” She touches him and sends him flying through space and dimensions. He’s out in space and a butterfly floats by. Then he’s disintegrating, crumbling into jagged pieces. He’s reconfiguring in streams of light; wavering, solid, brilliant — the colors evolving across color pallets — now neon, now dark and warm-toned. He travels across beams of light and energy, reality shifting around him until he lands on his knees back at her feet. Hands shaking, he looks up at her and implores, “Teach me.”
We see them traveling through space again, jumping through portals. A city is being reconfigured sort of Inception style. Suddenly they’re on a frozen mountain top. Back in the sanctuary, she asks him how he became such a skilled surgeon. “Study and practice,” says and she responds with a knowing nod.
We cut to the inside of an ancient, vast library where we meet the reenvisioned Wong, who Benedict Wong was quick to clarify is no longer a tea-fetching manservant, but a master of the mystic arts and drill sergeant of sorts. Wong introduces himself. “Just Wong?” Strange quips. “Like Adele? Or…Aristotle? Bono? Eminem?” Wong is not amused. “I am the guardian of these books,” he tells him. “If one volume from this collection should be stolen, you’d be dead before you left the compound.” He’s deadly serious. Strange, of course, is not. “What if you’re just overdue? Any late fees I should know about?” Wong remains unamused. “People used to think I was funny,” he says. “Did that work for you?” Wong replies.
It’s a solid extended clip that introduces many of the key players — though we still haven’t properly met Mikkelsen’s villain — and shows off the film’s reality-bending nature. For now, Marvel has yet to release the clip online, but for the time being, you can check out the Doctor Strange Comic-Con trailer here.