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How Marvel May Approach Doctor Strange's On-Screen Abilities

Doctor Strange will open up the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the mystical realm, but it turns out we already got a taste of it in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Scarlet Witch, played by Elizabeth Olsen, is powered by magical forces beyond her understanding. Might what we’ve seen from her telekinetic and mind-altering abilities have some connection with Doctor Strange?

Ahead of the DVD and Blu-ray release for Age of Ultron, Cinema Blend spoke with the film’s VFX supervisor Christopher Townsend -- whose Marvel credits also include Iron Man 3 and Captain America: The First Avenger. Since Olsen partnered with a professional dancer to create a whole new vocabulary of physical combat for the character, we asked whether the visuals surrounding her powers set the standard for mysticism in Doctor Strange. Though Townsend said he doesn’t know anything about what Marvel is planning for the 2016 film, he did say that it’ll pose the same problems he faced with Scarlet Witch.

I think the challenges that we faced with [Scarlet Witch] are going to be challenges that they face on Doctor Strange, as well — of trying to keep it not, you know, not wanting to necessarily go too comic-book graphic. If you want to try and give it a level of realism, you have to try and, you have to infuse that realism into that sort of graphic style.

As a refresher, Olsen's Wanda Maximoff was given her abilities from Baron von Strucker's experiments with Loki's scepter, which contained an Infinity Stone. The actress explained on the set of the film that she essentially has the ability to manipulate energy that she generates from her hands. It allows her to move objects and people with her mind, and alter people's perception.

Scarlet Witch magic Age of Ultron

Benedict Cumberbatch will star as Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme, aka Stephen Strange. As a renowned neurosurgeon, Strange suffers irreversible damage to his hand in a car accident. Desperate to gain his mobility back and continue his practice, he travels to Tibet, where he encounters The Ancient One. This veteran sorcerer teaches him the way of the mystic arts and transforms him into Earth’s protector against supernatural threats. This alone could easily become a garbled mess of visual effects, but since it’s Marvel, we’re already confident they’ll find some way of making this character and his abilities look cool.

However, it’s not just about this new branch of abilities. Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige said this film will broaden the MCU into other dimensions, like the micro-verse we saw at the end of Ant-Man. One of Strange’s most used abilities is astral projection, which allows him to leave his body and travel beyond the constrictions of reality. We’re eager to see how this all comes about on the big screen, since — to reiterate Townsend’s point — it’s better to take what’s in the comic books and translate it for a modern audience.

Doctor Strange is directed by horror helmer Scott Derrickson and co-stars Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, Rachel McAdams as the female lead, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Strange’s rival Baron Mordo, and Mads Mikkelsen as the film’s main villain, likely the ancient demonic entity Dormammu. The film will premiere on November 4, 2016.