The Marvel character Doctor Strange was created in 1963 by artist Steve Ditko and writer-editor Stan Lee and the duo’s surgeon-turned-sorcerer rapidly established himself as a favorite of comics readers, in large part thanks to Ditko’s retina-blasting, psychedelic imagery. More than half a century on, those graphics are very much informing Marvel Studios’ Benedict Cumberbatch-starring Doctor Strange, which arrives in cinemas on Nov. 4.
“I was always interested in the extreme mind-bending visuals of the comics,” says the film’s director, Scott Derrickson. “I had very ambitious for the visuals, which were rooted in the comics, that movies haven’t done yet. And a lot of that goes back to the Ditko artwork and all that ’60s craziness you see in the comics.”
“When this comic appeared in the early ’60s, it really informed, in a way that is pretty amazing, a lot of the psychedelic ’60s as we know it,” says Doctor Strange producer, and Marvel Studios president, Kevin Feige. “Stan Lee and, in particular, Steve Ditko, had an amazing psychedelic style. I don’t know that they were doing anything weird in the bullpen in Marvel, but certainly the stuff they were doing inspired all those people who were doing mind-expansion experiments at the time. So, that’s inherent to the property. And that’s our mission statement for the visual effects on this movie.”
The Marvel team is tight-lipped about the precise nature of the film’s effects. But Feige does give a taste of what audiences can expect by describing a sequence which takes place when Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange is introduced to Tilda Swinton’s mysterious mystic, the Ancient One, and finds Strange being introduced to the array of alternative dimensions which make up Marvel’s ‘multiverse.’
“[The] sequence culminates in what we, behind-the-scenes, refer to as the ‘Magical Mystery Tour,’ which literally takes him in a shocking and very fast way through the multiverse,” says the Marvel Studios boss. “The images can be just as trippy — for lack of a better term — as those Ditko images were in the past. So, that, we hope, is going to set this movie apart from any of the other movies. And, from any other movie.”
In summation? Expect the unexpected — or, at least, the very strange. “There’s going to be crazy s–t going on,” concludes Cumberbatch.
To continue reading more on Doctor Strange, pick up Entertainment Weekly’s First Look issue, on newsstands Tuesday, or buy it here.