Breaking down the latest Doctor Strange trailer

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe we've got gods, genetically altered super-beings, and space rogues. In the upcoming Doctor Strange, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Marvel Studios is taking their Universe into the realm of trippy, reality-distorting madness and magic with the story of Dr. Stephen Strange, Marvel's resident sorcerer supreme. At the recent San Diego Comic-Con, Marvel showed off the second trailer for the upcoming film. There's a lot going on in it, so let's dive deep and discover what you may have missed between all of those mind-bending shots from what will, without a doubt, be Marvel's riskiest movie to date.

Strange's origin story remains, well, strange

When Marvel adapts one of their comics into a movie, they usually have a "take it or leave it" attitude with the source material. Some ideas are best left on a comic book panel, after all. But when it comes to Doctor Strange's origin story, everything seems to be intact. Strange, one of the best surgeons in the world, gets into a car accident that leaves the nerves in his hands permanently damaged. In the comics (and most likely, in the movie as well), he goes to great lengths and depletes his fortune trying to find a treatment, before finally hearing of a mystical "Ancient One" in a Tibetan palace who can possibly reverse his misfortunes who, in the film, is played Tilda Swinton.

The kaleidoscope effect

Old-fashioned kaleidoscopes are the clear inspiration for the film's visual portrayal of the mystic arts. When warped by magic, MCU reality doesn't simply bend—it mirrors and replicates and folds in on itself multiple times, in distinct symmetrical patterns. It looks chaotic, but there seems to be a coherent geometrical consistency to the disruption. In other words, Marvel is really going to blow your mind, and is trying to make the cinematic equivalent of a trippy Led Zeppelin laser show at the local planetarium.

Practice makes perfect

At his point, Marvel has perfected the art of the origin story. In the new trailer, we see Strange both familiarizing himself with, and attempting to wield, power greater than anything he could have imagined. This isn't the Stephen Strange we know today in the comic books—the seasoned veteran, the sorcerer supreme. This is a magical rookie. He's going to have to work hard, make mistakes, and have his moral compass thoroughly tested. Expect some montages.

Calamitous intent

Every hero needs a villain. For his first theatrical outing, Doctor Strange will be facing off against Kaecilius, played by Hannibal's Mads Mikkelsen. Who is he? Well, when the character Wong, (played, fittingly, by Benedict Wong) states, "be careful which path you travel down, Strange. Stronger men than you have lost their way," he's talking about Kaecilius, a powerful sorcerer who, in comic book lore, is one of Strange's long-time (albeit lower-tier) nemeses.

Oh, oh, oh, it's magic

It just wouldn't be a comic book movie if a city wasn't being wrecked to smithereens, and this time around, there are no aliens or Hulks to blame. There's some epic, destructive sorcery on display, whether it be the neon blue and purple waves of magic sweeping through a major city, Kaecilius slamming down the side of a skyscraper and causing a surreal tidal wave of glass and concrete, or the reverse of it all—Strange duking it out with (presumably) Kaecilius on a city street, as buildings and signage revert from rubble to repair around them. Oh, and you've got the whole thing about New York City streets being twisted into surreal, abstract geometrical shapes. We've seen super-heroic destruction before, but never like this.

Windows to the world

One of the perks of being a sorcerer who can bend the very fabric of reality to their will is reduced commute times. One of the recurring themes of the trailer is how, as Tilda Swinton says upfront in her portrayal of the Ancient One, "we travel great distances in an instant." Give a character that kind of power and they're going to use it, which explains why locations in the trailer bounce wildly between the concrete jungles of New York and the snow-peaked mountains of Asia. There's no need for frequent flyer miles when you can walk through a circle of sparks on one continent, and immediately end up halfway around the world.

Mordo and Strange: BFFs … for now

Baron Mordo and Doctor Strange are seen, throughout the trailer, working together to stop Kaecilius and his henchmen. If comic book lore is to be believed, than this pairing is only temporary, as the two are far from friends. They're actually mortal enemies, leading us to believe that, over the course of future installments in the franchise, we will see Mordo and Strange's relationship deteriorate. Expect a lot of amazing magical battles between the two.

Dat cloak flip doe

In a trailer packed to the pencil-thin goatee with mind-bending visuals, the one that undeniably steals the show could easily have gotten lost in the shuffle of all the madness: Strange tossing his iconic Cloak of Levitation over his shoulders, as its clasps magically latch on to his shoulders, revealing the all-powerful Eye of Agamotto amulet dangling from his neck. Jaw-dropping is too soft a word. How about jaw-exploding?

For the first time in history, we see a prime vision of Doctor Strange on-screen—and it couldn't be more perfect.