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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

8 Things to Expect from Doctor Strange 2

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So, Doctor Strange has now gone from “just another good Marvel movie” to “bona fide smash hit that’s bigger than Man of Steel.”  Given that success, one can only assume that a sequel announcement is around the corner, especially with some of Marvel’s bigger guns like Thor and Iron Man on the fence about returning for more films in the 2020s.  Given that Dr. Strange 2 has now moved from stretch goal to likely scenario it’s time to start throwing out some guesses on what could be next for the sorcerer supreme. 

All we know for sure, however, is that his next adventure will take place in the wake of Avengers: Infinity War and the finale of their Thanos/Infinity Gauntlet saga.  Given that, the relatively limited scope of Dr. Strange’s own mythos as a hero, and the various changes that would have to come along with Marvel’s Phase 4, I’ve compiled a list of 8 possibilities to expect from Dr. Strange 2.

This is the most obvious next step, as it was teased in both Dr. Strange’s climax and one of the post-credits scenes.  I’ve heard that Marvel is very keen for Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Baron Mordo to become their new breakout villain ala Tom Hiddleston’s Loki in phase 1.  

That’s probably because Hiddleston is about ready to pull out of his contract with Marvel though I’m not totally convinced Ejiofor can fill his shoes.  Ejiofor’s a great actor, to be sure, but he works more through dramatic gravitas or intense emotional realism, neither of which are qualities I’d associate with a sympathetic and charismatic bad guy in the Loki mold. 

As for Mordo’s plan, it was established in his post-credits scene that he’s come to view all magic as an aberration and is seeking to blot it out.  That’s actually fairly similar to the plot of the most recent Dr. Strange comics by Jason Aaron, though that series used a new villain instead of Mordo.  

It’s a workable plot for a film and would afford the movie a chance to dive through various mystic realms as Mordo tries to destroy all the magic in the world.  I’m not really sure that all of that would add up to a sympathetic villain the way Loki’s desire to be loved and anxiety about his own origins worked so well in the Thor franchise, but it’d be worth a shot. 

Here’s a character that a lot of fans were pretty shocked didn’t show up in the first Doctor Strange.  She’s Strange’s mystical colleague/apprentice/love interest from the Dark Dimension, the same realm that Dormammu occupies.  However, given that Dormammu in the films is more of a vast, protoplasmic entity rather than the singular, humanoid being he is in the comics I’m not sure how feasible it would be to have Clea come from his realm. 

It’d be much easier to introduce her as a being hailing from some other extra-dimensional realm.  She’s a pretty cool character all on her own and has served as a near constant part of the Doctor Strange mythos so she’s a safe bet for a film appearance.  What’s more, most of the usual mystic women of the Marvel universe are either unavailable for a film or already in use in a non-magic capacity. 

Actually, something I’ve been wondering for awhile now is if Rachel McAdams’ character from the first film will turn out to be Clea.  The rumor is she was originally intended to be the Night Nurse, a sporadic supporting character of the Marvel U, but it’s clear now that Rosario Dawson has claimed that role definitively.  Given how much Dawson’s Night Nurse has stuck through all 4 Netflix seasons, that leaves Marvel with a McAdams shaped hole in their structure- making her the Clea analog could solve that problem. 

One of the weird laws of the MCU is that everyone has to have a black sidekick/friend.  There’s nothing wrong with that, even if it is a cynical attempt at hedging demographic bets and is the byproduct of a clear reticence to produce a black hero, but it’s consistent and the fact Strange has lost his black friend almost certainly means we can expect a replacement for the sequel.  Enter the character of Brother Voodoo, pretty much the only black mystic hero at Marvel aside from Black Panther, sometimes, and Blade if we’re fudging the definition. 

Brother Voodoo was initially more of a horror character, popping up in the ‘70s when Marvel was throwing a lot of stuff at the wall to see what stuck.  He popped up alongside the likes of Dracula and Werewolf By Night, hung on in the background for a time, before bursting back onto the scene in the mid-2000s when diversity became important.  The original idea of the character was that, after his brother died his ghost haunted him and could possess his body and grant him enhanced abilities.  That idea has since been scrapped for a more basic, voodoo-wizard type identity. 

Adding Brother Voodoo to the films would be a neat way to explore magic users beyond the walls of Kamar-Taj and maybe start putting the awkward Orientalism and problematic white saviorism of the first film away.  Plus, it’d be a good way to seed him into future projects as, with the right casting, he could easily be a bigger draw than Dr. Strange himself.  That would fit with the comics as well as, for a time, Brother Voodoo was Earth’s sorcerer supreme and even took up the name Dr. Voodoo. 

Going back to villains here, Shuma Gorath is basically the Marvel Universe equivalent of Cthulu.  They didn’t dive too deep into this in the film but the Marvel mystic side of things is actually a pretty clearly defined hierarchy with a lot of mythos and lore invested into it.  

There are the Elder Gods, a quartet of beings that are the Universe’s first Gods, the Old Ones, Lovecraftian monsters such a Shuma Gorath, and the Vishanti, a trio of beings drawn from both groups and their offspring.  I’m still hopeful we’ll see more of these beings in the follow-up film, as well as the Octossence, a group of 8 living dimensions that Strange often uses in his spells in the comics. 

As for Shuma Gorath, it would be an interesting bad guy given how much it defies the standard elements of humanity that invest most Marvel baddies.  It doesn’t use human agents, it doesn’t have long monologues or legions of henchmen, it can’t even bargain like Dormammu did- Shuma Gorath simply is.  There was one time when Gorath and his fellow old ones were involved with human agents.  

It was another reality where Captain Mar-Vell, a kree superhero, was dying of cancer and Doctor Strange used the power of the Old Ones to keep him alive and remove death from that reality.  Eventually, that universe became so overflowing with life it tried to metastasize into neighboring realities and was known as the “Cancer-verse” and was key to one of the biggest and best Guardians of the Galaxy stories Thanos Imperative. 

Another possible villain is Nightmare, the Lord of bad dreams.  Pretty much everything you really need to know about Nightmare is right there on the tin- he’s a demonic boogeyman type guy who lords over all the night terrors and bad dreams of the human race.  He tends to try to take over humanity or other planes of existence fairly regularly and is one of the big Mystic bad guys Marvel loves to trot out over and over again.  

In his time he’s gone up against everyone from Dr. Strange to the Hulk and would be a pretty solid addition for the sequel.  Honestly, Nightmare feels like he’d fit better into the Loki mold just based on how visually similar the two of them are. 

The big reason I could see Nightmare popping up as the new big bad is that he’d be a perfect fit for director Scott Derrickson.  Before Doctor Strange Derrickson cut his teeth with the horror film Sinister, an okay little haunted house flick involving ghost children, snuff films, and the demon Bagul.  While I doubt Marvel would seek an R-rating for a Doctor Strange movie, Nightmare fits perfectly with Derrickson’s horror roots and even kind of looks similar to Bagul.  

The two share a fairly common MO as well of enslaving people through their dreams and such.  Given how successful horror has proved over the last few years as a box office draw, I wouldn’t be surprised if Marvel wanted some of that action for themselves and Nightmare would be a good way to do it. 

This one is much more of a way off pitch but I could see it popping up given how completely unspoiled Phase 4 is looking currently.  At time of writing Namor is technically owned by Universal Studios, however that license will eventually expire if they don’t make a movie out of him soon and that doesn’t seem to be on the table.  

Given the possibility of losing the property and the fact Marvel has made joint films with Universal before, Incredible Hulk, I could see them trying to slip Namor and Atlantis into Phase 4 in a supporting role before a big feature.  This is going to get especially true if WB’s Aquaman movie turns out to be a real hit instead of yet another train wreck. 

The tricky thing about introducing Namor and Atlantis to the MCU would be figuring out where to place him.  In the comics Namor’s always worn several hats but they tend to relate to properties Marvel no longer has access to like the X-Men or the Fantastic Four.  

He’s also a long-time ally of Captain America but that seems like a difficult retcon to slide through.  As such, focusing more on Atlantis as a mystical hub, with ties to Marvel’s Monster Island, would be a good way to find Namor a unique wrinkle while also setting the stage for future features like a Devil Dinosaur movie. 

This is probably the weirdest entry on here but I’d be remiss not to mention it.  The bread and butter of superhero adaptations is, more than anything else, cornerstone stories.  These are the stories that’ve come to lay the foundation for a hero’s mythos and history, stuff like Civil War, the Dark Phoenix, Galactus, etc.  Unfortunately not every superhero has a whole wealth of cornerstone stories to draw from and that’s the case with Dr. Strange. 

Despite hanging around the Marvel universe since the mid ‘60s the number of big, lasting, impactful stories with him lands at about 2.  The first is his origin story- losing the use of his hands, seeking out the Ancient One, training in magic and eventually fighting his treasonous fellow pupils.  The second major story was when he took on a new costume sporting a freaky blue facemask. 

Costume change-ups in general work as big story points (see the black suit Spider-Man saga,) so it makes sense why blue mask Dr. Strange has hung around in the collective comics memory more than his other adventures.  The story involved a fight against an evil cult called the Sons of Satannish, a group who worshipped one of Marvel’s several Satan analogs. 

Strange was forced to hide his identity from the group despite also using his real name for his superhero identity.  I admit, it didn’t make a whole ton of sense but it also didn’t really need to, the important thing was that he had a cool new costume.  That flexibility is probably a boon as most Marvel films tend to just work in adapting the broad strokes of a story, like Iron Man 3’s Extremis stuff or how much Civil War broke with the source material. 

I’m going to be pushing this particular theory more or less non-stop till we actually hit the 2020s or it’s confirmed so might as well get used to it.  So, the big question that’s hung over Marvel Phase 3 is “how do you solve a problem like Thor?”  In phase 1 Thor was a major hit for them that worked to both explain their weird cosmic elements and played as the most family friendly film in the Marvel stable. 

However, when Phase 2 rolled around The Dark World underperformed at the box office and Guardians of the Galaxy rolled in as the new cosmic blockbuster of choice to explain things like the Infinity Stones.  Combine this with Chris Hemsworth eagerness to leave the role over the taxing physical demands and it seems clear something needs to change in the Marvel structure.

This is where I think Hercules and the Olympians will come in.  Hercules first appeared in the comics as a Thor supporting character before eventually becoming popular enough to score his own slew of comics, including a couple of recent successes.  He’s a big, bombastic, friendly hero character that loves drinking, gambling, and punching giant monsters in the face.  Basically, he’s the perfect character to slide into the Thor-shaped hole in Marvel’s line-up if that whole “Ragnarok” thing proves final. 

What’s more, Hercules is one of Marvel’s few openly bisexual heroes so that’d definitely be a step forward for their on-screen diversity.  Setting that up in Dr. Strange 2, maybe paving the way for the Olympians as a center point of Phase 4, would make a lot of sense and help define them as characters of mythic fantasy rather than Thor’s more sci-fi inflected aesthetic. 

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