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Monday, August 1, 2016

Panel Vision - Seven Characters Benjamin Bratt May Play in Doctor Strange

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Edited by Robert Beach 

As we continue to march ever closer to Dr. Strange, several people have picked up on a pretty interesting minor detail from the latest trailer for the Sorcerer Supreme’s debut film. So far, the trailers, posters, and announcements have all been pretty sparse for Doctor Strange. Most of the news focus on showing off how strange and different the movie will be. Whether or not that’s the case, it does lead to a lot of lingering questions about what role the various characters in the film are actually playing or if there’s some secret agenda at hand.  

That particular brand of conspiracy speculation got a shot in the arm when the ending credits of Dr. Strange’s latest trailer named Benjamin Bratt as a featured actor. Currently, we have no idea who Bratt is playing or that he was even in this movie as he hasn’t appeared in any of the set pics, posters, or trailers. Now, the question has become “who is he playing?” I thought up seven possibilities. 

Just from the outset, the secrecy around Bratt’s role and the fact he’s not integral enough to the film to be featured in the marketing implies he’s playing someone fairly important. A lot of folks, myself included, have read that to mean he’s involved in one of those big, multi-film cameo roles like Josh Brolin’s Thanos or Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury.  

While some of these choices are specific to Dr. Strange’s mythos, they are, for the most part, grounded in large-scale Marvel cosmic arcana. Speaking of Thanos, the character of Mentor is intrinsically tied to the big purple bad guy as he’s Thanos’ dad. 

Yeah, that’s been blitzed over in the film universe, but Thanos is the elder son of a race of super-powerful space beings known as the Eternals of Titan. The Eternals are a lot like the Inhumans, only cosmically powered and created by the big space giants we saw in Guardians of the Galaxy. The colony on Titan are pretty important to Thanos’ early stories, even if they tend to get left out of his more modern outings.  

His father Mentor is the leader of the Titan colony, and, in the comics, he views it as his responsibility to destroy his genocidal son. He created an artificial life form of immense power specifically to kill Thanos, a being named Drax the Destroyer. Given how much of that mythology has been rejected, Mentor is an iffy bet, yet the presence of an infinity stone, Strange’s Eye of Agamotto amulet, means Thanos will probably be involved somehow. 

Something people aren’t talking about that much is how Marvel is slowly building up a group of cosmic beings known as the Elders of the Universe. The Elders are all the last surviving members of the Universe’s earliest races and possess the power primordial, the latent energy left over from the big bang.  

As functionally immortal beings, the Elders are all super into a specific hobby. Three of them have been introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There’s Benicio Del Toro’s The Collector from Guardians of the Galaxy, who obsessively collects weird things; Jeff Goldblum’s The Grandmaster from Thor: Ragnarok who’s obsessed with games of chance; and Ego, the living planet, from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.

The Gardener is one of the few remaining members. His deal being that he’s super into gardening. His biggest contribution to Marvel canon is that he was the Elder who possessed the time gem before Thanos took it in the lead up to The Infinity Gauntlet saga, but his connection to the time gem does give him a link to Dr. Strange.  I’ve always had a soft spot for the Gardener and would love to see him in the movies, even if his shtick is pretty dopey overall.

Of all the choices on here, this is the one that makes the most outward sense. Mephisto is a major Marvel Comics bad guy, a popular Satan stand-in with ties to big heroes like Ghost Rider and a vested role in the Infinity Gauntlet saga.  

In the comics, he served as Thanos’ sole ally during the saga before eventually and unsurprisingly betraying him. If Marvel wanted to set-up Mephisto now as a villain to give Dr. Strange a greater connection to the events of Infinity War, that would make a lot of sense. What’s more, Mephisto and Dr. Strange have gone at it plenty of times in the past, so he’d also serve as a big bad for the Dr. Strange sequel assuming the movie does well enough to warrant one. 

Mephisto could play as a bridge between Marvel’s films and TV shows. Even though the rift between Marvel Studios and Marvel TV has grown considerably, I do believe reunification is possible and would be profitable for all involved. If Marvel wanted to have some villains or important characters from the movies move over to menace the Netflix heroes, Mephisto would be a good fit.  

He’s villainous enough to be a legitimate threat, but with enough of a limit in his goals (the corruption of the heroic spirit) to keep from being too powerful for the Defenders to handle. With Ghost Rider coming to the Marvel Series universe, it’d be nice to have someone demonic on hand in case Robbie Reyes takes off with audiences. 

This is such a nerdy choice I doubt we’ll see it, but a man can always dream. So: Chthon is one of four beings known as Elder Gods, they’re specifically the first Gods of the universe. They’re part of several levels of hierarchy and continuity that informs Dr. Strange’s mythos, but they’re by far the most streamlined and easiest to understand in comparison to the Octessence or Shuma-Gorath. They’re four primordial gods of Earth, two evil and two good. Chthon being the ancient God of Chaos. It seems apparent that Marvel is saving Dr. Strange’s biggest foe, Dormammu, for future films, which would make Chthon the best second choice there is. 

His origin is simple enough to explain: it’s right in his name after all, and he can work as a big force behind various super villains like Mads Mikkelsen's character. Chthon could be a bad guy they keep around for future battles and fill the Mephisto spot without necessarily sporting a Judeo-Christian aesthetic.  

Finally, his presence would be an interesting tie to Avengers as, for a time, Scarlet Witch’s powers sprung from Chthon when she began channeling Chaos Magic. If Marvel wanted to set the stage for more Scarlet Witch stuff down the line, getting Chthon in now would be the first step down that road. 

Boy, we’re getting weird now if Inbetweener is honestly one of the most likely figures of this list to show up. This ties back to the Infinity Stones in a much more pointed way than Mentor or the Gardener. In the comics, the Inbetweener was the initial custodian of the Soul Gem, the only Infinity Stone that’s yet to pop up in some corner of the Marvel Universe.  

If you don’t know, the six Infinity Gems are each tied to some esoteric concept that also informs what they can do. There’s the Power Stone, the purple orb from Guardians of the Galaxy currently held by the Nova Corp; the Reality Stone, the Aether from Thor: The Dark World held by the Collector; the Space Stone, the tesseract from Avengers held in Odin’s treasure vault; the Time Stone, Dr. Strange’s amulet; and the Mind Stone, which we saw in Age of Ultron and currently powers the Vision.

The Soul Stone is still missing in action, but many believe it will be tied to the space character Adam Warlock, who’s rumored to be in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Warlock has long been associated with the stone, but so has the Inbetweener, who was the stone’s initially custodian prior to Warlock coming into possession of it.  

The Inbetweener is a weird dude, essentially acting as a servant of balance between the forces of order and chaos before going power mad and trying to destroy the universe. He’s mainly notable for his signature look and his ties to larger cosmic forces. If Marvel wanted to tee him up as a bad guy for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and make Dr. Strange required watching for audiences, this would be a good way to do it. 

Yeah, giant floating heads that control esoteric universal forces of chaos and order. Hey, it could happen. I don’t think these guys are that far away from being adapted. They might seem strange, but that’s only because they are; it’s just that Marvel tends to thrive on weirdness and to get their craziest properties into the public arena with a nice blend of “isn’t this whacky and cool?” making them the Muppets of superhero content. 

In the case of Lord Chaos and Master Order, I could genuinely see Bratt playing both floating heads as there’s not much difference between them. The role only really calls on him to exposit. The big reason I could see them playing into the MCU is that they’re the easiest cosmic beings for Marvel to adapt prior to Infinity War.  

See, one of the popular elements of the Infinity Saga comic from which Marvel’s pulling for Avengers 3 is a last-minute twist where all the super powerful cosmic beings of the MCU band together to take on Thanos. It’s a dynamite sequence that the movies can’t replicate yet. If Marvel wanted some cosmic heavy hitters to move in and try to take on Thanos, Lord Chaos and Master Order would be pretty solid entries. It’s not like they’d be the weirdest floating heads to show up in the MCU given Ego, the living planet, is coming to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. 

Let’s get this out of the way at the start: Benjamin Bratt is not playing the Beyond. I’m about to argue that he SHOULD play the character. Realistically speaking, that’s not the case. There’s no way the Beyonder is showing up in the MCU anytime soon. The Beyonder is an incredibly powerful, god-like being with the power to do anything. They gave him an origin story in the mid-2000s that he was a mutant/inhuman. The ways and hows aren’t as important as the fact that he exists, maintains the mentality of an eight-year-old, and views the entire universe as his toy box. 

That particular set-up was the crux of one of Marvel’s all-time greatest event comics Secret Wars, in which the Beyond collected a ton of Marvel A-list villains and heroes and dropped them on an alien planet called Battle World to make them fight for his amusement. It’s a great romp full of exciting action, twists, double-dealings, and a lot of shake-ups to the status quo like Spider-Man getting his black costume. 

While I’m not saying that Marvel is already in the midst of planning a Secret Wars movie, I do know Secret Wars is probably THE premiere Marvel universe event after The Infinity Gauntlet saga.  At the end of the day, it’s Marvel’s goal to keep making profitable blockbusters till the end of time, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they were already looking ahead to Phase 4 and hoping to get the drop on whatever event they make the fulcrum of the MCU after they finally wrap up the Thanos plot line. If that IS Secret War, which would make the most sense, getting the Beyond straightened out now would be a great move and get the ball rolling for whatever happens next. 

Doctor Strange is scheduled for release on November 4, 2016

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