There are certain movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that simply make sense. You have the "Iron Man" franchise, a few installments of "Captain America," the "Avengers" movies that bring the costumed superheroes together and even titles like "Black Panther" and "Captain Marvel" on the horizon.
While not all of these characters were household names when they made their first big screen appearance, they all fit an idea of what people have in mind when hearing the word, "superhero." They are costumed fighters for justice and all that is good.
One that might not fall in line with that list is, in fact, Marvel's next entry in their cinematic universe: "Doctor Strange." With "Strange," Marvel dives head-first into the world of the mystic. The MCU includes super soldiers, mutants and rich guys in suits of armor. Magic, though? That's new territory.
With that territory comes the chance for Marvel to break out of the superhero box and try something they've never done before, which was good news for director Scott Derrickson. Earlier in the year, we visited the set of "Doctor Strange" along with a handful of other outlets to speak with Derrickson and the movie's cast and crew.
"When I first met with [Marvel], they had certain thematic ideas they liked. And not a lot of story ideas, which was great," the director says. "And I think it was my connection and interest in the thematic ideas that got me the job. And the whole process was starting with all ideas on the table. And so I was involved in it from the very get-go."
Those thematic ideas seem to go hand-in-hand with the work Derrickson has done before. "What Scott has done so well in the best of his films is have one foot completely in the real world and one foot in whatever supernatural sub-genre he was playing with," producer and Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige says. "I do think we’ve looked at this film not with any direct genre comparison but as a play on the supernatural genre. Certainly more so than we’ve done in the past, which is what makes his journey from person that doesn’t wear a cape to person who does wear a cape -– cloak -- much more unique than we’ve seen in the past."
For Derrickson, the collaboration with Marvel has been, in his words, "the most incredible filmmaking experience for me by far." "I really enjoy the intimacy of the collaboration because it's all been just myself and Kevin and my producer [Stephen Broussard]," he says. "There are no middle men. It's that and my crew."
With such a small team behind the creative output of the movie, that leaves plenty of room for Derrickson to get weird with the film -- which he also co-wrote.
"I feel as though we crossed a line at some point in the process, which the comics, I think, were the inspiration to try to go past certain boundaries," he says. "But we crossed a line and after crossing that line we just kept going. It all kept getting stranger and stranger not to be."
It also happens to be the biggest project Derrickson has ever worked on, the same of which can be said of the movie's star, Benedict Cumberbatch.
"I’ve never done a lead role in a film this big, in a franchise this big," the actor tells us while covered in snow due to the filming of a scene that finds Strange stranded on Mount Everest. "It’s just insane, the amount of facility that everyone gets, but the amount of artistry and craft that’s brought to every aspect of filmmaking."
While the project is venturing to a new frontier for Marvel though, it's important to note it's still an origin story. While it may be bringing the supernatural to the MCU, that's not its primary job. Instead, it needs to properly introduce Stephen Strange to the world, which is something that excites Cumberbatch.
"It gives me an excuse as an actor to be learning with my character, which is something you can do authentically," he explains. "I’m not a martial arts expert, I’m certainly no sorcerer, so all these things, the movement of the body, the physicality, the changes he goes through mentally and physically, obviously we’re not shooting in sequence, but it’s a great part."
Given that it's an origin story, "Strange" is also less concerned with working in ties to the rest of the MCU. While it clearly exists in that universe, Feige says, "This is very much a standalone introduction to a very complex character and a very complex world, which through this movie, and until maybe some upcoming movies, is relatively self-contained."
While Strange will eventually be integrated into the rest of the MCU -- as soon as "Avengers: Infinity War" in 2018 -- it's a good thing that he's getting the chance to stand on his own two feet first. After all, with alternate dimensions -- some of which Feige says "the human mind can barely fathom" -- and a plethora of magic and mystical forces to introduce into this universe, Captain America may not be ready for all that Stephen Strange has to offer just yet.
"Doctor Strange" is in theaters Nov. 4.