If there was any question about where Doctor Strange would pick up in the Sorcerer Supreme's personal timeline, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has put those questions to bed by confirming that the film is an origin story akin to Iron Man and Ant-Man.
“It's an origin story in this film in particular and it always has been our model, with a few exceptions, to introduce a character and introduce their world and then have the fun of meeting that character in another movie down the line. Iron Man, Cap, Thor, most recently Ant-Man. Certainly, that's what we're doing in Doctor Strange," Feige explained in an on set interview (via Slashfilm). "If you didn't know this movie was connected to 13 movies before it, nothing in this movie would indicate that that was the case. 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 and independent.”
Feige went on to explain why the mystic aspect of the MCU had yet to creep into its superhero films, saying that the sorcerers of the Marvel Universe have a bigger picture in mind.
“There are people inhabiting the same world that are stopping buildings from falling down, robots from doing this or aliens from doing that. These people in this movie are stopping inter-dimensional forces from wiping out all of reality. Although it doesn't necessarily come up, we've always sort of assumed that the sorcerers have bigger fish to fry. When they hear there's something happening in the city or there's a bank being robbed or something, they're not thinking about it. They're thinking about, ‘If we don't keep vigilant, our sense of reality will disappear and there won't be a bank to rob and there won't be a city to be conquered.’"
This does leave one big question - if Doctor Strange is an origin story, why was Steven Strange mentioned as one of the dangerous people on Hydra's radar in Captain America: The Winter Soldier? Feige has an answer for that as well, though it almost raises more questions on its own.
"He is very well-known as a surgeon," Feige explained. "He has got various awards and plaques you're going to see over there; he attends various galas, might be driving at one point in this movie. He has name recognition and a talent and certain Hydra computers identified him as somebody that could cause trouble for their agendas."
This raises the question of why Feige couldn't simply say that Doctor Strange takes place earlier in Marvel's timeline, and whether there is an indicator in the film of how Doctor Strange fits into the larger MCU.
There may be other secrets hidden in Doctor Strange, however - including, potentially, Dormammu, the lord of the Dark Dimension.
"What we're playing with in this world is that there are dimensions," explained Feige. "That the other dimensions are not just parallel realities -although some of them are - but [there is the] Dark Dimension, where Dormammu inhabits. There are dimensions that are so mind-bending that you can barely perceive them."
Feige doesn't confirm that Dormammu himself will appear in Doctor Strange - merely that he and his Dark Dimension exists within the MCU.
Feige was also asked about Clea, daughter to Dormammu, and a long-time love interest to Strange in comic books. The Marvel Studios' head confirmed the character wasn't in the film, with Strange's main female foil instead being Rachel McAdams's Christine Palmer, a nurse who knew Strange before his turn to sorcery.
"We wanted a grounded character," said Feige. "We wanted a character that was a connection to Strange’s life in New York City, in the normal world. Somebody that could be his anchor to the real world, to his present in the beginning of the film, and by the time he re-encounters her, wearing that, someone who can comment on his transformation as a character."
Marvel recently released three new character posters for Strange, Palmer, and Wong, seen in this article. Speaking of Wong, he won't exactly fill the same role he does in comic books as Strange's manservant.
"Benedict Wong is a very different incarnation of that character. He’s an amazing actor who has done an amazing job bringing this role to life. He is not the assistant manservant. He was loyal in the books, and certainly fulfilled a purpose which I think could be one of the things you’re describing – a stereotype going back to any number of white hero-Asian driver, servant. That is not his role in this movie at all," Feige explained. "Everyone in this movie knows more than Strange. Everyone is more talented when it comes – for 90% of the movie, the magical abilities and the mastery of the mystic arts than Strange is, and Wong is a fellow warrior who has been a master in his own right. As we meet him in this movie, he’s tasked with protecting some of the most valuable relics and books Kamar-Taj has. He doesn’t have a lot of time to worry about Strange. So those are a few of the ways we’ve updated those characters."
Rather, it's Baron Mordo who plays the role of Strange's close ally - though he likely won't take the villainous turn his comic book counterpart is known for.
"[Mordo] is Strange’s advocate in the beginning of the movie. The Ancient One doesn’t necessarily see the potential in Strange that Mordo does, and Mordo is the one who talks the Ancient One into allowing him in. And for this film, he is a partner of Strange, and he is a mentor to Strange. You know that was something we wanted to play against in the comics. Because in the comics for as unbelievably creative and full of imagination as they are – we are desperate to recreate in cinematic form – there’s some things that are too obvious for modern day audiences. The jealous rival named Baron von Mordo, who turns against him when he shows any signs of talent – we specifically didn’t want to do that."
Other Marvel magic users may also appear in Doctor Strange. According to Feige, Jericho Drumm, a.k.a. Brother Voodoo will at least get a shout out, though Feige also shot down rumors that Nico Minoru would have a cameo in the film, saying that she may appear in the film's art book.
And Doctor Strange's deep comic book bench doesn't stop with its characters. Its numerous magical artifacts all have roots in the Marvel Universe.
"There was a lot of discussion about how much to use, because you can obviously get into an overload of those things," Scott Derrickson told ComicBook. "I think the Harry Potter movies are proof that audiences love that stuff. They love the idea of magical objects, and they like learning the rules of those objects and what they do. I think everything that we do, I think all the names of everything and I think all the things that we use in the movie, are drawn from the comics. I can't think of one, at least offhand, that's not drawn from the comics."
There is one exception however - the so-called "Sling Rings" Doctor Strange and his allies use for teleportation.
"The gateways, the forming of the gateways that are used for that, that's straight out of the comics," Derrickson explained. I just needed an object for them to carry it on."
Doctor Strange is due out in theaters November 4, 2016.