‘Doctor Strange’ First Look!

Earlier this evening, audiences across the United States were given a sneak peek at Doctor Strange.  Well, at least about a dozen minutes of it. And it is, in a word. . .  strange. 

This movie’s visuals are going to blow audiences minds– at least those of us who, like me, got to see this preview in IMAX 3D. Every mindbending visual effect that has become almost a cliche between The Matrix, Inception, and their numerous imitators is elevated and surpassed as cityscapes bend, time and space are undone, and Doctor Stephen Strange takes a journey into realms beyond.

Indeed, the closest thing I have to compare this to– specifically, a scene where Strange is pushed out of his body by The Ancient One and goes hurtling through the atmosphere, into outer space, across dimensions– is that scene in Ant-Man where Scott goes subatomic (spoilers? sorry, it’s been a year. no excuses if you haven’t seen it yet)

It’s that same sort of kaleidoscope, acid trip feast for the eyes. And if this is just a preview, I have to wonder what is left to show us in the actual film.

So what else did we see? Here’s a brief rundown:

Benedict Cumberbatch welcomes the audience to the preview. He mentions how over an hour of the film was filmed in IMAX, and with a wave of his hand, “magically” expands the screen to full IMAX, showing us how much more we’re getting.

Doctor Stephen Strange argues with Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) about why he doesn’t want to work in the ER– it would be a waste of his talents. And it’s implied there is a romantic history between the two. Strange excuses himself because he has to address some neurosurgery society. 

Then we see Strange dressed in his fanciest clothes take off in a sports car, driving like mad along the streets of New York. He is distracted by a phone call and [spoiler alert?] ends up in a spectacular car crash. This is the first scene we truly see the visual filmmaking of this movie on full display. It’s brutal, it’s visceral, and it feels incredibly real– in that same way that being in a car crash or other crisis it feels like time stops or slows down, the visual style mimics that perfectly.

We get some montage of Cumberbatch in traction (most of this we’ve seen in the trailers) and he makes his way to the home of The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). She informs him of other worlds and dimensions beyond what the eye can see, and he dismisses them– until she punches him in the chest, forcing his astral form to leave his body. And that’s when we (and he) get our first taste of what the other realms look like. It is mostly indescribable, except that it involves lots of falling and the most amazing colors and shapes you’ll ever see. Oh, and the concept of fractals take on new meaning not only in shapes, but as fingers suddenly grow hands of their own, whose fingers also grow tiny hands, and so on.

We then see a sort of “training montage” and the scene of Baron Mordo giving Strange the wifi password we’ve seen in the trailers, as well as an interaction with Wong over the borrowing of books from the library. Let me take this opportunity to say how incredibly funny this material is. Almost as much as Guardians of the Galaxy or Ant-Man, there are a lot of jokes here. This is, ahhem. . . strange given the dark and mystical nature of so much of the rest of the material. But it’s obvious the Marvel brand of including humor will not be any different here.

Finally we also saw some just jaw-dropping footage of what I assume is from the final, climactic battle. We see the cityscape bending as we did in the trailers as Mordo, Wong, and Strange literally leap into battle against Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelson, who looks fantastic, btw). What this sequence really showed was how the perception-bending of their battles is truly all about perception. There are cuts to what the normal people on the street are seeing– including the inevitable Stan Lee cameo, which is as funny as always– but they aren’t understanding the half of it. It’s a really smart way to ground the “reality” of the magical and mystical side of the Marvel universe, heretofore unexplored. 

Oh, and weaved through all of this footage? A remake of a truly fitting song for this film: “Blow up the Outside World” by Soundgarden. It’s the perfect blend of melancholy, nihilism, and bombasticity that matches the tone of what we saw.

Overall, I envy all of you who didn’t get to see this. You literally have no idea what you are in for. Words fail to describe what we saw but all I can say is it was an amazing roller coaster ride I wish I could ride on again. Marvel gave us just a little taste of this film, and now we have to wait until November 4 to see the rest of it. The rest of you who didn’t take the free hit of Marvel’s newest party drug don’t yet know how amazing it is.

I’m jonesing for more and can’t wait to see the rest of it. If this is what they’re showing us in a sneak preview, what do they have saved for the main course? I hope they didn’t just give us every amazing thing from the entire film (no way they’d do that, right?) 

I’ll be waiting in great anticipation for opening day of Doctor Strange which hits theaters November 4.