'Doctor Strange' Comic-Con Trailer Calls Buddhists "Savages"

Weird moves upon weird moves coming from Marvel Studios.

On Saturday, Marvel dropped the second full trailer for Doctor Strange, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen, Rachel McAdams, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. The film has been described as containing the Marvel universe’s first “horror scenes”, though this superhero horror angle is absent from the first trailer. Doctor Strange appears to be an origin story for Cumberbatch’s Strange, whose facial hair and understanding of reality changes, evidently, throughout his story.

The trailer offers two bright spots of humor and levity, though both moments are already fraught with controversy. First, Tilda Swinton is depicted as shrugging and gently mocking Strange’s questions. Her character, The Ancient One, has been controversial since Swinton’s casting was announced, given Marvel’s white-washing of an originally Tibetan character.

The second moment of levity is even stranger, in which Chiwetel Ejiofor hands Benedict Cumberbatch a slip of paper that reads “shamballa”, and Cumberbatch asks, “what’s this, my mantra?” Before closing the doors on him, Ejiofor says, “the wifi password! We’re not savages,” the joke being that the mind-bending warriors still want to check their Twitter feeds – and also that Buddhists and Hindus who use mantras are “savages”. Or, maybe, people who don’t use wifi are savages. Either way, it feels aggressively naive for a movie already tinged with insensitivity about race and culture to end its big Comic-Con trailer on a joke about “savages”. What gives, Marvel?

Perhaps the only legitimately thrilling part of this look at the film is Mikkelsen’s glowing, demonic, skin-peeling eye sockets, which flash around at the screen in several creepy shots. Watch the trailer in its entire, Inception-borrowing glory below.

Doctor Strange hits theaters November 4.

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