When you put Doctor Strange into your DVD or Blu-ray player, make sure that your remote is nearby: searching for easter eggs and hidden messages is a tradition in films in Marvel’s Cinema Universe, and director Scott Derrickson is confident that fans will be constantly hitting the pause button with the latest superhero blockbuster.
“Fans will find that they can pause the movie and look closely at most of the visual effects sequences because there is a lot of information on the screen,” he explains. “There is a lot of detail in things that you’re not going to see on the first or even second viewing – and that was deliberate. I wanted those visual effect scenes to be so dense that you would want to see them again. Not for box office reasons, but because it’s quite a lot to take in the first time.”
Doctor Strange tells the story of the titular surgeon (Benedict Cumberbatch), whose life is changed forever after a car accident renders his hands useless. When traditional medicine fails him, he travels to the remote Kamar-Taj in search of a cure, but instead discovers the mystical arts and becomes a powerful sorcerer battling dark forces.
The Blu-ray edition features more than 80 minutes of exclusive bonus material, including deleted scenes. However, Derrickson maintains that the film hasn’t changed too much from his first edit.
“Doctor Strange was never a long movie,” he says. “The first cut was only 15 minutes longer than the final cut, which I think was two hours and 10 minutes. There were only three wholesale scenes that were cut; it was mostly trimming stuff down.
“The surprising part of the process is that what shrunk most were the set-pieces. There is not a lot of action in the movie in terms of quantity, truthfully. If you measure out the action scenes in this, I’ll bet there’s less action in this movie than any other Marvel movie, but it doesn’t feel like that because the action is so demanding to watch. When something is so visually demanding, the audience can only take so much of it.”
Among the deleted scenes were a number featuring the film’s main baddie, Kaecilius, played by Mads Mikkelsen. “One of them was a first meeting where Kaecilius kills one of the zealots and it just was too arch,” Derrickson says. “We ended up taking it out because the movie played better without it, but it’s not a bad scene.”
Although the filmmaker is best known for horror flicks such as Sinister and Deliver Us From Evil, he has long been a fan of this particular Marvel superhero. “I’ve always loved the Doctor Strange comics. In the comic book universe, Doctor Strange was a psychedelic, spiritual, weird breath of fresh air that came in and expanded the limits of comic book visuals, ideas and characters. I wanted to make a movie that did the same thing to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”
So what scenes in the finished movie most stood out for Derrickson? “I think the two most magical moments were the first and last scenes that Benedict worked on with Tilda [Swinton, who plays the Ancient One], and the apartment scene with Benedict and Rachel [McAdams, who plays Christine Palmer]. The scene when Strange meets the Ancient One was incredible to see come to life. This was the first time I saw Tilda being the Ancient One and it was amazing. They were both incredible in that scene.
“The fight scene in the apartment between Christine and Strange stands out because it’s such an intense scene. Every time that scene comes on, I suddenly feel like I’m in a gritty little indie movie! There’s so much human drama in the way Benedict explodes at her in such a horrible way, and it’s all rooted in real pain. When you’re on set and you’re watching actors of that calibre do things like that, it’s sublime.”