Dr Strange: Finally an intriguing superhero - Features - Films - The Independent

Dr Strange: Finally an intriguing superhero

He's the latest Marvel superhero to get his own movie but while Dr Strange may be a minor character in comic book history, says Alex Lawson, he's more intriguing than most

An arrogant neurosurgeon turned bashful sorcerer with a magic pendant and penchant for arcane language: Dr Strange inhabits a world far removed from the shirt-busting Hulk or Clarke Kent's specs-to-Superman act. But the aptly named oddball, who debuted in Strange Tales No 110 in July 1963, is to join his cape-wearing kin in making his first showing on the big screen as the latest Marvel Comics character to become a film star.

His lack of profile outside of the ardent comic-book community may have raised concerns that Marvel is running out of steam after dominating the blockbuster roster with franchise hits including Thor and Iron Man, but this 2D superhero with a stethoscope is certainly colourful enough to warrant a three-dimensional outing.

Strange is initially a talented yet egotistical neurosurgeon. However, he loses the dexterity in his hands after a car crash shatters his bones and, as he attempts to recover, he dabbles in the dark arts in the Far East, becoming humble in the process. This leads to an unlikely career switch as Strange becomes responsible for defending the human race against threatening beings from a mystical hell. Reborn as a sorcerer supreme, his swashbuckling adventures are conducted wearing a levitation cloak, a sash that can be extended to 10 times its length (no, really) and all while muttering spells.

A spark of his previous arrogance remains in some great quotes: "I've battled Mephisto and Nightmare. You don't even rate," he says to his adversary Firebrand, and "perhaps I accidentally transported myself to an alternate reality where nobody but me can fight," he muses.

He certainly has an impressive following. In The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe, the One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest author Ken Kesey lauds the kaleidoscopic nature of Strange's universe, and Marc Bolan's troop of glam rockers referenced him on T.Rex's 1971 track "Mambo Sun".

The film itself has sparked a raft of rumours online since the director Scott Derrickson last week tweeted a photo of himself with a Dr Strange comic proclaiming it his next project, albeit unconfirmed by Marvel. Meanwhile, a disparate swathe of big names have been linked to the title role, from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Justin Theroux to Jared Leto, Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch. The latter two appear most likely because they are both geek fans, but Cumberbatch's heaving schedule may dictate matters before Martin Freeman, his Sherlock sidekick, can even eye up a superbelt.

So is this Marvel finding the confidence to put its more intriguing characters centre stage, flush from the cash of a string of box-office hits, or the comic-book stable rummaging in its pockets for the last flash of silver? Well, if the company is inclined to make a quick buck, it has held out so far under extreme pressure from fans to initiate a money-spinning crossover that brings together several superhero dynasties. Marvel sold off Spider-Man, The X-Men and Fantastic Four to rivals Sony and Fox in the Nineties and shareholders have reportedly called for a supergroup to blaze a spider-webbed, sharpened-clawed trail.

Marvel also appears confident of its long-term prospects. Kevin Feige, the Marvel president of production, has said that it has scheduled its movies until 2021 with a debut for Ant-Man and a further Avengers outing on the cards.

Dr Strange also appears to have a number of typical ingredients for the big screen, alongside his surgeon-to-sorcerer transformation. His love interest with Clea, a fellow mystic, offers plenty of Hollywood glamour, not least as she is revealed to be the niece of arch-nemesis Dormammu. The multicoloured world that Strange inhabits could also lend itself well to the screen, albeit more arthouse than summer smash.

However, Strange has been tried before and may need to be tweaked. In 1978, Peter Hooten played the lead in a straight-to-video adaptation which caused few ripples. Also, Wong, his East Asian manservant, is unlikely to make the cut because the character has racist overtones.

If Dr Strange does make it to the big screen it could bring some much-needed new life to a genre increasingly dominated by threequels and familiar faces. It could also represent a marked departure from Marvel's traditional troupe of big-name, flying mavericks.

Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week