The latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Doctor Strange tells the story of world-famous neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who is as arrogant as he is gifted in an operating room. After a horrific car accident robs him of the use of his hands, changing his life forever, he is forced to look for hope in a mysterious enclave in Nepal, where he discovers a battle against unseen dark forces bent on destroying our reality and must learn to use his newly acquired magical powers to defend the world.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, screenwriter Jon Spaihts talked about how he convinced Marvel to give him the job writing the film, collaborating with director Scott Derrickson and Marvel producers Kevin Feige and Stephen Broussard, why Doctor Strange is his favorite childhood superhero, what it means to him to be a part of the canon now, what makes this film a game-changer for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, how much the story evolved and changed, and the fact that Benedict Cumberbatch was destined to play this part. He also talked about the extent of his involvement with Pacific Rim 2, how his take on The Mummy will be “legit terrifying,” and the approach that he and co-writer Eric Heisserer are taking on Van Helsing. Be aware that there are some spoilers discussed.
JON SPAIHTS: I was kind of a poor kid, so I didn’t get to go to comic shops, all the time. I would rummage at garage sales and friends would hand me down their comics, which meant I was always starting stories in the middle. If you read comic books over the long term, you’re always bumping into elements that have been introduced previously, but that you don’t know. Often, there’s a little note that says, “See Episode 68 of The Spectacular So-and-So.” In that way, comic books are always signaling a larger universe that you’re only seeing a little fraction of, and that’s the story we have, in real life. We move to a new city and we take a new job, and everyone seems to know each other and have a way of doing things together, and we have to put the pieces together, after the fact. Jumping into the middle of comics feels like that. It’s a big universe, and you’re just trying to put together the clues and figure out where you are.
Doctor Strange’s universe, in particular, was mind-boggling and colossal. The stakes were so big. The graphical style of it was so eye-catching with bold colors and symbols and writing that hung in the air, with inscriptions and bands of light. I loved that. I loved the look and the feeling of it. It felt very physical. It felt like solid structures of light. It felt like hard work for the body to create them and break them. I think Scott [Derrickson] has managed to capture something in this film that shows how the magic is physical, takes effort and has weight. It’s an extension of martial arts. But, I also just loved what Doctor Strange got up to. Not only did he learn to wield staggering cosmic power, but then he was constantly bumping up against adversaries far greater than he was. And as much above us as he already was, in terms of the things he was capable of doing, he was always outmatched and always forced to scramble desperately. By determination, cleverness and wit, and by the sometimes lawyer-like manipulation of the rules of magic, he would win. I loved that character. I loved that he was that powerful, and still always outgunned and just trying to hold the line and keep Earth safe.