Stephen Strange, the surgeon turned Sorcerer Supreme created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, is the next Marvel Comics character due for a big screen adaptation by Marvel Studios. The screenplay has been written already, by Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer (whose previous credits include A SOUND OF THUNDER and 2011’s CONAN THE BARBARIAN). The director will be Scott Derrickson (whose previous credits include THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, SINISTER, and this year’s DELIVER US FROM EVIL).

Yesterday, the internet was rocked by the news that the lead role of Doctor Strange has been cast. With this guy:





A huge name in various fan-friendly arenas, Benedict Cumberbatch is probably best loved for his performance in the title role in BBC’s Sherlock. He is the voice of Smaug, the treasure-happy dragon, in Peter Jackson’s HOBBIT movies, and appeared as the villain in J.J. Abrams’ (no relation) second STAR TREK movie. And the Comic-Con crowd just loved him in Steven Spielberg’s WAR HORSE and Steve McQueen’s 12 YEARS A SLAVE. My personal favorite of his performances to date was his cameo in 2010’s FOUR LIONS, but that’s more because I straight up-and-down loved that movie. He didn’t get as much to do there. But he’s a terrific actor and no doubt he’ll be a fine Doctor Strange.




If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me champion the idea of a weirder, rattier choice, like say





No offense with the “rattier” comment.  I just love the idea of Doctor Strange being matched with a casting choice that is unexpected and somewhat, well, strange, rather than imperious and debonair, which is what it’s clear Marvel is going with by chosing Benedict Cumberbatch. He’s a fine actor but he brings a massive pre-packaged fanbase with him, which pushes this movie in a different direction. Steve Ditko’s Doctor Strange comics were a repository for unadulterated weirdness, which this movie is looking less and less likely to be.



But film is a business and these movies are hyper-expensive. At this point, Marvel Studios is a Disney-owned mega-entity. They’re already taking a big enough risk making a Doctor Strange movie, so it makes sense they scale back on the risk a little by choosing a star who is big and still getting bigger. As I like to tell people around these fanboy flashpoints, if you’re a huge Doctor Strange fan, you may as well find a way to be happy with it because this is the movie you’re getting. Not that it will stop anybody from carping, but that’s just the truth.



“Dr. Strange vs. Dracula” by Paul Smith!



For my part, I’m not going to pretend I grew up a huge Doctor Strange fan. I always preferred the characters with lesser or no super-powers, like Spider-Man and Black Panther and Captain America and Hawkeye. Winning was harder for those guys. Doctor Strange could just wave his hand and solve most of his problems. I don’t dig magic. You won’t catch me in Vegas watching an illusionist. I think David Blaine is a mega-douche. (By the way, while I hate Vegas magicians in real life, this would be an interesting direction for a DOCTOR STRANGE movie to explore.) While his costume is rad, and I respect the bizarre trips the art would often take in Doctor Strange comics, I could never get too invested in Doctor Strange, like Thor, whose powers by nature make most of his victories foregone conclusions. This, not casting, is the real hurdle a DOCTOR STRANGE movie will have to surmount.

But let’s give them the Benedict Cumberbatch of the doubt.


— Jon Abrams.



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