Looking back at the original Iron Man film and its post-credits sequence, it was really easy to get excited at the immense possibilities presented there. Of course, back in May of 2008, most moviegoers couldn’t even conceive of Marvel’s filmmakers actually delivering on a scale as grand as the comic book iteration of the Marvel Universe, but Nick Fury’s proclamation to Tony Stark that he’d “become part of a bigger universe” ended up being far more true than we could’ve ever anticipated.
While most of the first two “phases” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe concerned building the bread and butter of superhero franchises and the core members of the Avengers, this past August saw the release of a surprise juggernaut that was waiting in the wings. James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy succeeded where a lot of other similar outings have failed, and embraced what made it different from its Marvel brethren. Guardians helped to infinitely expand the scope of the Marvel Cinematic Universe beyond Earth, introducing a lot of new players and organizations in ways that will likely affect the forthcoming 2018 and 2019 Avengers movies, and that film has managed to make the universe an even larger place (actually giving credence to the word “universe” itself) without making it seem unwieldy.
After Marvel’s Phase 3 announcements this week, they’ve decided to keep pushing themselves in new directions. Of course, a Guardians sequel was a foregone conclusion, and we’ll be getting that even sooner than we expected. Sequels to major superhero franchises like Captain America and Thor will likely form the “main event” backbone of the next phase, and a project like Inhumans can build on the sci-fi credibility of Guardians, while still moving in a different direction than that film. One project in particular, though, has the potential to expand the Marvel Cinematic Universe outward in the same way that Guardians did, yet in an entirely new and untapped direction: the magical realm.
Doctor Strange, to be directed by Scott Derrickson (The Day the Earth Stood Still, Deliver Us From Evil), will adapt a character that has the unique virtues of being both a prominent Marvel Comics superhero with ties to the Avengers, while also being the supreme in-universe authority over all magical matters that span dozens of different realms and metaphysical forces. Much in the same way that Guardians left Earth behind in the opening few minutes of that film and set off for new territory, Doctor Strange has similar potential since most recent magic-oriented efforts border on otherworldly anyways (with the Harry Potter series coming to mind immediately). It will likely help to add yet another layer of narrative diversity to the existing lineup, as well as all new potential tales of heroes and villains that have the solid foundation of the Marvel characters and locations at their back. In a weird way, it can rely a bit on some of the tropes made possible by other Marvel films like Thor as well as Guardians in both illustrating the ethereal elements of its characters, while also helping to introduce audiences to a whole new world.
Casting rumors have flown about recently, ranging from anywhere between Ethan Hawke, Joaquin Phoenix, Ewan MacGregor, and Keanu Reeves. By far, though, the actor I find most suitable for the part is the latest to be “nearly signed” for it: Sherlock and Khan himself, Benedict Cumberbatch. Although the character of Stephen Strange is an American, a lot of other media adaptations (like animated appearances and video games) have depicted him with a British accent for some reason. In a weird way, it seems appropriate given the character’s regality in both appearance and in speech, with a flowing cape and intelligent musings on the matters of the mystical. Cumberbatch has an air about him that feels exceedingly appropriate to embody Doctor Strange, and his range is broad enough that he can convincingly make the character originate from wherever the story necessitates. It’s also hard to deny that you likely want a strong voice from someone that will be verbally espousing spells, and Cumberbatch’s baritone is one of his best and most defining features as a performer.
Doctor Strange has the potential, as a film, to expand the scope of the Marvel Universe once again in an entirely new and untapped direction for the characters. It’s funny: before the impending release of Thor in 2011, we were scratching our heads and wondering how the world of Iron Man could be melded with that of an Asgardian demi-god. Now, we just can’t wait to see the Sorcerer Supreme occupy the same universe as a talking raccoon that shoots a machine gun on the shoulder of a talking tree.
Oh, how the times have changed.
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