When Doctor Strange debuts in November, the Marvel Cinematic Universe will get a whole lot more, well, ~strange~.
The Doctor Strange comics have always featured mind-bending feats and psychedelic artwork to create boundary-pushing narratives, and these features will likely broaden the world of the Marvel films. However, the Doctor Strange comics also unfortunately often relegated a key character to stereotype.
That’s why director Scott Derrickson initially planned to cut the character of Wong, Strange’s manservant, according to CinemaBlend. However, the director discovered a way to bring more agency and dimension to the character, and decided to include him in the film.
Explained Derrickson, “I was going to leave Wong out of the movie at first; he was an Asian sidekick manservant, what was I supposed to do with that? But once the decision was made to cast Tilda [Swinton, who plays the Ancient One] we brought Wong back because, unlike the Ancient One, he could be completely subverted as a character and reworked into something that didn’t fall into any of the stereotypes of the comics.”
The Ancient One in the comics is, like Wong, an Asian male. Both characters can fall into stereotypes, meaning that adapting them to the screen for modern day audiences wasn’t an easy task. However, not including the character of Wong at all could have led to outrage by both fans of the character, and those of us who desire to see more diversity in big-budget films.
Luckily, by adjusting Wong’s role and removing what was previously a rather subservient nature, the character changed drastically. Played by Benedict Wong (the best kind of Wong coincidence), the filmic Wong is able to use magic, and no longer acts simply as Strange’s manservant/martial arts instructor.
Instead, he’s somewhat of a “drill sergeant,” keeping Strange in line while Strange learns the mystic arts taught to him by the Ancient One. It seems, then, that Wong will still be assisting Strange, but in a more proactive and powerful way.
Overall, it seems like Derrickson and the rest of the Doctor Strange team made the right call: Rather than lose an important character who would add diversity to the film, they took more free reign with the character itself. We’re excited to see this version of Wong, and the film itself — luckily, we only have to wait two more months for its November premiere.