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February 25, 2009

Seven Reasons Marvel Should Make A Dr. Strange Movie Sooner Rather Than Later

By Tom Spurgeon
For Comics Blogger Prime NeilAlien On The Occasion Of What I Think Is His 9th Blogiversary

image1. He's a little bit older.
Unless you are dim, unimaginative or somehow obsessed with youth over all reason, Dr. Strange not only can be played by someone aged 35 up to about his early 50s, he should be played by someone in that age range. As was the case with Iron Man, this is an advantage rather than a detriment because most of the really effective leading men are in this age range rather than the 24 to 35 grouping. These actors hold the screen more effectively. A reason I think Iron Man worked well is that Robert Downey Jr. was familiar to audiences but not overly so, and had a well-cultivated persona that he knew how to utilize to best effect. Good actor, too. I think I know who they should pick -- there's an A-list actor that if not this age is getting near it that is a solid actor and would be believable playing someone that enjoyed a glamorous early life and has now struggled to a position of stature and responsibility. But I'm reluctant to play fantasy casting agent. The fact is a lot of actors could dig into this part.

2. He has a top five comic book origin.
I think Dr. Strange's comic book origin is one of the great ones, and there aren't a lot of great ones. I mean the original origin, of course. The recent reboot is, frankly, shit-stupid. Dr. Strange's story provides a striking contrast to many comic book origins in that as the tale of a successful surgeon that loses the use of his hands, it's about an adult man struggling to find redemption rather than a young man discovering his place in the world or making good on the opportunities provided him. Stephen Strange isn't pre-ordained, he's not The One, he's not even embraced as a worthy or likely candidate when he first approaches the Ancient One. It's only through a virtuous choice that he gains the right to earn the mantle he now holds. That's a nice message. It's not "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility" but "Assuming Responsibility May Bring The Opportunity For Great Power."

3. He offers a romantic view of New York City.
An element that connects Dr. Strange to Superman and Spider-Man that rarely gets explored in his comic book is the fact that the protector of the universe chooses to live in a bad-ass looking brownstone in the middle of New York City. His home is what little kids between the coasts imagine amazing-looking city buildings to be: impressive, old, stuffed with secrets. You'd want to see Dr. Strange's reality show. You know he has deeply fascinating lunches in mens' clubs you've never even heard of. You know he goes to the theater -- he was probably drawn by Hirschfeld. You know he knows the name of his grocers and spice procurers and the people that make his coffee. You know he throws amazing parties, and is invited to same -- when the superheroes have parties you know everyone's way more psyched about them than Dr. Strange is. How is this not totally appealing?


4. He offers the opportunity for amazing, jaw-dropping special effects.
A spirit form, the Mindless Ones, the levitating cloak, the all-seeing eye and orb of Agamatto, those thick and wonderful ribbons of power: this stuff would look amazing on a motion picture screen.

image5. He has a small but visually interesting rogue's gallery.
Dormmamu, Baron Mordo and Nightmare all have great looks to them. I think Baron Mordo is the most underrated villain in the Marvel stable. Who can't relate to the absolute stomach-churn that would be the guy who was better than you at everything in school and could have had your job and your life coming back to screw with you at every opportunity? He's Draco Malfoy played by Daniel Craig. Mordo's an interesting guy character-wise, too, the Sonny Liston of the Marvel Universe: a flawed man with elements of greatness forced into becoming a supporting player in the story of a great man with flaws. Plus the magic makes him a monster heel. Great character.

6. He has cool friends.
Although they've been hit and miss as portrayed in the comics themselves, stripped to their core ideas The Ancient One, Clea and Wong are the kinds of characters that a movie would very much serve. Clea has that weird hair thing going on which a film could safely lose, but who doesn't like the Princess From Another World concept? The sudden intimacy caused by someone sweeping into your life from another place and stopping you dead in your tracks would be particularly devastating for someone like Dr. Strange the way it is for many successful men who build their life around their vocational success. There's a great piece of potential tension between the Ancient One and Dr. Strange that comics' rigid obsession with hyper-competent heroes can't really broach: that the Sorcerer Supreme is a relative latecomer to the process of succession, the symbol of the Ancient One's period of decline rather than a favorite son of the great man's prime, and what that means in terms of his readiness and training and the confidence his allies place in him. Wong could be that plot element's living symbol -- an element of continuity, someone on whom Strange is expected to lean. There are all sorts of nice little corners to explore here that a film's relative fresh start and visual shorthand could enable.

7. He's a king, not a warrior.
I like the idea of a hero that protects things, protects us, safeguards our universe, as opposed to one that fights people with whom he's personally involved out of some shared psychoses or even one that saves us when we manage to get into trouble. Dr. Strange represents a different dynamic than the usual superhero noise and nonsense and one that I think it's a profile folks might find appealing as a change of pace from a hero that fights his best friend's dad or his business partner or whatever. It's a very adult model of being a hero, and while it never seems to work out in the comics, over the shorter narrative arc provided by a film or series of films I think it could be quite affecting.

Happy Bloggy Day, NeilAlien!



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