In Depth

Doctor Strange: Can Benedict Wong save Strange from controversy?

New trailers reveal more about Mads Mikkelsen's Kaecilius and Wong the 'manservant'

Marvel has released an extended sneak peek at Doctor Strange, with new footage from the upcoming film and interviews with the cast and crew. Another international trailer has also emerged offering a first look at a potentially controversial character, Wong.

In the new extended featurette Benedict Cumberbatch discusses the character and motivation of Marvel's mystical superhero Doctor Strange. The clip also includes interviews with Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams and Chiwetel Ejiofor discussing elements of the film.

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The Doctor Strange movie, adapted from the Marvel comics, tells the story of a brilliant neurosurgeon Dr Stephen Vincent Strange (Cumberbatch) who suffers a devastating car accident and loses the ability to use his hands. He spends his life savings on operations to repair the damage, but when all else fails, the desperate Strange is taken by Baron (Ejiofor) to a mystical underground realm where he meets The Ancient One (Swinton).

Swinton's character sees the potential in Strange and introduces him to an alternative spiritual dimension, but this has its dangers.

The featurette includes an interview with Feige discussing the villains of the story, including Kaecilius, played by Mads Mikkelsen. "These are people who become seduced by what they find on the other side," says Feige. "They are interested in spilling the barriers between these dimensions which would annihilate our universe."

Another international trailer has also emerged featuring a first look at Wong, Doctor Strange's "manservant" in the comics, played by British actor and Marco Polo star Benedict Wong in the upcoming film. The character is descended from a family devoted to serving mystics on the path of good.

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Emma Stefansky on Screen Crush suggests that the character of Wong has been brought back into the film after being written out, to quell concerns over "whitewashing".

Adapting the comics to film was always going to be tricky in these more culturally aware times, says Stefansky, who suggests that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's limited perception of Asian-ness in the 1960s wasn't exactly "woke".

Stefansky points out that Swinton's casting as the Ancient One caused a great deal of controversy when it was announced, despite director Scott Derrickson believing he was being progressive by casting a woman as a character usually shown as male in the comics. Derrickson, however, was accused by some of "whitewashing" the character, who is supposed to originate from the Himalayas, and many believed should have been played by an Asian actor.

As a correction for that controversy, Derrickson reimagined the role of Wong.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Daily News, Derrickson says that he was going to leave out the "Asian sidekick manservant" because he didn't want to contribute to racist stereotyping. But after the casting of Swinton, Derrickson said "we brought Wong back because, unlike the Ancient One, he could be completely subverted as a character and reworked into something that didn't fall into any of the stereotypes in the comics".

Whether having a "subversive" Asian servant will assuage the critics or not remains to be seen.

Doctor Strange is due for release in the UK on 25 October.

Doctor Strange: What can we expect from Benedict Cumberbatch?

14 April

The trailer for Benedict Cumberbatch's latest film, Doctor Strange, has been released, much to the excitement of comic book fans the world over.

Given that every new film seems to be a comic-book adaptation these days, it's no surprise that the Sherlock star is the latest big name to take the plunge.

The trailer gives us a few hints about what to expect when the film is released on 4 November. This is what we know so far:

Who's in it?

As well as Cumberbatch, the film stars Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Mads Mikkelsen.

"I'm very, very lucky and excited to be taking on Doctor Strange from Marvel," said Cumberbatch. "He's an extraordinary character and brings in a whole new dimension - multiple dimensions - to the Marvel Universe."

He added: "You're going to get girls, cars, explosions and a little bit of astral projections. The usual fare."

What's it about?

Top neurosurgeon Stephen Strange is injured in a car accident that "mangles" his hands and ruins his career. He sets out on a journey of healing, during which he bumps into the Ancient One (Swinton) who becomes his mentor in the mystic arts.

According to comic-book news website Newsarama, "the concept art shows Strange casting spells, pulling on giant chains and being transported to other dimensions". It also shows him wearing a red cape and fighting adversary Baron Mordo (Ejiofor), both hinting that the film is staying true to the original.

One of the most exciting bits of news coming from the trailer is that, for at least part of the film, Cumberbatch uses a US accent.

What do the comics tell us about Doctor Strange?

In Marvel's comic books, Doctor Strange serves as the Supreme Sorcerer, Earth's primary protector against magical and mystical threats.

His nemesis is Mordo, a supervillain who also studied under the Ancient One and accidentally played a part in setting Strange on the path to good. Both men are magicians and while Strange has the power to call on mystical artefacts, Mordo has many years' experience studying black magic.

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