By now, everybody is pretty familiar with the Marvel movie formula. Extreme circumstances cause a person to become a superhero, said person cracks a few one-liners with their somewhat wacky supporting cast, and then the hero faces off against an expendable villain and saves the day. There have been minor variations along the way that change the setting or add a team element, but after 13 films, fans pretty much know the drill. At least they thought they did, because next up on Marvel's slate is Marvel's most innovative movie yet, Doctor Strange .
On the surface, Doctor Strange doesn't appear to be all that atypical. It's another origin story, something that Marvel supposedly was shying away from, depicting another broken human who reforms and becomes the hero he was always destined to become. The titular hero this time around is Stephen Strange, a narcissistic surgeon who suffers a car accident that renders his hands incapable of performing his job. He travels the world in search of a cure and ends up being trained to become the world's greatest sorcerer, who then uses his new abilities and new purpose in life to save the world from dark forces. Like I said, it sounds par for the course upon first look, but what if I told you the reality you know is one of many? Here are six reasons why Doctor Strange is Marvel's most innovative installment yet.
1. The Use Of 3D
Up to this point, seeing Marvel movies in 3D didn't really add much to the experience. The effects were lackluster, produced with seemingly little care merely to make a product that was expected by audiences. But Doctor Strange is different. For the first time in a Marvel movie, 3D effects are absolutely central to the storyline, crafting a world unlike anything anyone has seen in a Marvel film — or any film, for that matter — before. Here's what Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige told Collider's Haleigh Foutch about the use of 3D in Doctor Strange: "It was pretty cool in terms of how 3D can serve that story. You know, sometimes 3D is a tool, like it is in Civil War, a tool of — another toy in the sandbox of how the Russos (Joe and Anthony) can present this movie, then there are times like what Disney is putting out with The Jungle Book — it’s certainly gonna be the case with Doctor Strange — that it serves the storytelling, that it advances the storytelling. And hopefully it helps bend people’s minds even more than with just the flat screen."
2. Out Of The Box Casting
Marvel has constantly come under fire for the lack of diversity in their films, which is to be expected since their properties are based on comic book characters from the mid-20th century, nearly all of whom are white men. Doctor Strange faced similar problems, maybe on the largest scale yet. The Ancient One, Strange's teacher, is an Asian man in the comics, and many fans were concerned that his portrayal in the movie would play into stereotypes of Asian mysticism, with Benedict Cumberbatch's Stephen Strange filling the role of white savior. Instead, Marvel decided to go with a non-Asian actor, and also gender-swapped the role to add another layer of diversity to the cast. This new take on the character will be portrayed by a funky, bald Tilda Swinton, who looks great in the part.
However, this move resulted in some fans criticizing Marvel of whitewashing the role, but given the studio's options of playing into stereotypes versus reinventing the role while at the same time adding a different kind of diversity, I personally think they made the right call. Further efforts of diverse casting for the film can be found in Strange's nemesis Baron Mordo, a white Eastern European man in the comics, who will be played by black actor Chiwetel Ejiofor. And Strange's Asian manservant from the comics, Wong, has been given a makeover to make him stronger and non-subservient, while still being portrayed by an Asian actor, Benedict Wong.
Introducing magic into the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a risky move. While there are certainly some outlandish things going on in Marvel movies (killer robots, aliens, etc.) magic is generally an entirely different genre. Everything else can be explained away by pseudoscience, but magic is tougher. Books of spells and magical amulets — both of which will feature in the movie — are more at home in a franchise like Harry Potter, and introducing this facet of reality into the Marvel Universe really changes the game. Doctor Strange may appeal to fans of the fantasy genre who previously had no interest in superhero movies, and by getting those people on board Marvel could be expanding their fanbase greatly.
4. The Multiverse
In addition to spells and mystical beings, the most notable concept being introduced in Doctor Strange is that of the multiverse. The movies have shown other planets, which are easy for audiences to accept, but Doctor Strange will introduce other dimensions. Other realities. Other universes. The idea of parallel universes and alternate dimensions is pretty heavy subject matter for a "superhero movie," but Doctor Strange is jumping into this complicated topic head-on, basing the bulk of its story around it. It will be a real test to see how easily audiences get on board with the idea of a multiverse having existed in this franchise they've already been watching for 13 movies, and I give credit to Marvel for taking the risk in showing it.
5. Page To Screen Transition
All Marvel movies are based on comic books, but some do a better job of translating the experience of reading a comic to the big screen than others. Captain America: Civil War notably took some scenes directly from the comics and inserted them into the movie, but Doctor Strange is doing so on a much larger scale. The movie aims to transport the trippy 1960s designs by legendary artist Steve Ditko, who created the character of Doctor Strange, into a movie for the first time. Until now, the types of designs Ditko created for Strange weren't available outside of animation, but the film's technology allows the experience of reading a Ditko comic to be enjoyed on the silver screen at long last.
6. The Bad Guys Aren't Really Bad
It's generally not that hard to tell who the bad guys are in a Marvel movie, but that's not the case in Doctor Strange. Rather than have an evil character bent on world domination as Strange's foe, the movie instead features Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius, a very little-known character from the comics. In the movie, Kaecilius is said to be a practitioner of the mystic arts who simply views the world differently than Strange and the Ancient One. He wants to break down the barriers between the dimensions, while Strange wants to preserve them. He's not necessarily wrong, he's just different, and it will be up to the audience to decide what they think of him. "He's not a villain in that way – he's a man who believes in something else than the hero," Mikkelsen told Ryan Leston of Yahoo! Movies. "That doesn't mean that he doesn't want to make the planet look wonderful or he wants to save the world as well, but he has a different way of doing it. He is the antagonist, of course, but he’s not necessarily wrong."
These six reasons all show the ways in which Doctor Strange is taking some serious risks in the Marvel Universe — and I'm betting they're going to pay off.
Images: Walt Disney Pictures; Giphy