Friday, February 15, 2013

Strange Magic, Part 2

"Witness how I control the elements! The
wind blows wild, and yet my junk remains
Okay, yesterday I looked at three different cinematic adaptations (or pseudo-adaptations) of Marvel's Doctor Strange: the 1978 made-for-TV pilot Dr. Strange, Full Moon's Doctor Mordrid in 1992, and the 2007 animated Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme from Lionsgate and Marvel Animated Features. Each version has its strengths and weaknesses. Yes, even the dreck that is Doctor Mordrid has a couple of saving graces: Jeffrey Combs would have made a terrific Stephen Strange in a better script, as would Brian Thompson have been a great Mordo. Also, Yvette Nipar's character, a research consultant for the police, provides a useful plot device that I will talk about more later.  (Just as an aside: I think that Nipar is among the most underrated and under-utilized actors of my generation. Google her.)
Now, I'm going to reference yesterday's post quite a bit today, so - if you haven't read it yet - you probably should do that now.
"What a piece of work is
Stan Lee?"
Today, I'm going to throw out a few suggestions that I think will make a Doctor Strange film worth watching for both fanboys/fangirls and the general movie-going public alike.
The first question that gets posed in when we talk about a comic book adaptation is generally about casting. Who will play Doctor Strange? Mordo? Clea? Wong? To me, that's putting the cart a bit before the horse, but, okay, I'll play.
There are some fan photoshops floating around the internet that have Liam Neeson wearing the Sorcerer Supreme's robes. I like Liam Neeson as much as the next guy, but I feel that the window for Neeson to play Doctor Strange has passed. Patrick Dempsey wants the role, but, as I said yesterday, I think he lacks the vocal quality necessary to make the reciting of incantations not seem too hokey. The first actor who comes to mind for me is Joseph Fiennes. He has the look, the voice, and the Shakespearean acting chops necessary to bring Stephen Strange to life.
"Play another evil wizard?
Oh, joy. Do I at least get
a nose this time?"
"Is this a sonic screwdriver I see
before me?"
My first choice for Mordo has - in a way- already played the role. Disney's The Sorcerer's Apprentice was, in my opinion, a great big rip-off the Doctor Strange comic books. Nicolas Cage's Balthazar was obviously inspired by Doc Strange and Alfred Molina's Horvath is pretty much a Mordo clone. So, Molina would be one choice, but another fun possibility might be to have Mordo played by Joseph Fiennes's big brother Ralph.
"How many more times
does he have to mention
me on his blog before I get
to file the restraining order?"
Clea is an interesting creature, literally. She's not human. She's spent most of her life living in a dark dimension. She should be - in my opinion - simultaneously tough-as-nails and very naive. My choice for Clea is also one of my favorite actresses: Ari Graynor.
Wong is tricky. He is basically the Alfred to Strange's Bruce Wayne, so some effort should be made to distinguish Wong from Alfred. I think the way to do this is to remove the surrogate father element and cast Wong much closer in age to Stephen Strange. To that end, I suggest Star Trek: Voyager's Garrett Wang.
"Whatever, Ari. I'm just glad
he didn't call me 'Harry Kim.'"
Do I have any thoughts about directors? Sure, but I'm taking the easy route here: Alfonso CuarĂ³n (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), David Yates (the last four Harry Potter movies), and Jon Turteltaub (The Sorcerer's Apprentice).
"I kick ass.
What more do you need to know?"
Now, as for the story, I think that we should learn the lesson taught to us by the 2007 animated feature and not get too hung up on detailing every aspect of the origin story. Do you remember The Shadow with Alec Baldwin? It took that movie way too long to really get rolling. Tim Burton's first Batman movie didn't bother with an origin story at all for its hero, allowing only one flashback to tell us of Bruce Wayne's motivation. We didn't see anything to fill in the gap between his parents being murdered  and him becoming the Batman. Look at The Avengers: two of the six heroes were given no on-screen origin story at all. We don't need it. Not every superhero movie has to explicitly portray the character's origin to be interesting. Let me just say that one more time in case Hollywood didn't hear me the first time: Not every superhero movie has to explicitly portray the character's origin to be interesting.
Admittedly, this would have been cool.
(Found at
I would like to see a less conventional approach to telling Doctor Strange's story.
Doctor Mordrid actually had an intriguing concept before they totally blew it: a series of bizarre murder/suicides are occurring related to the theft of alchemy materials. Police are baffled. This is about as far as Full Moon got before dropping the ball. What they should have done but didn't was to have the police researcher connecting the dots leading her both to the evil sorcerer and the good sorcerer. This, in a Doctor Strange movie, would allow the audience to learn about Doctor Strange's origins as the researcher does: a brilliant neurosurgeon is in a car accident and is unable to perform surgery because of injury to his hands. He spends millions of dollars on alternative cures and then just drops off the map. The researcher talks to people who worked with Strange at the hospital and even meets a few people within Strange's inner circle. She may even be warned off at one point by Clea. Ultimately, the researcher ends up being useful to Doctor Strange, so she (and we) are brought into his bizarre, mystical world. Instead of knowing every single thing that makes Stephen Strange tick, he is an enigma, gradually revealed to us through the first part of the movie by another character.
"Boom. Shadow junk."
Seriously, Yvette, your agent isn't doing
you any favors.
Now, this character could instead be a journalist. Possibly Ben Urich if that character is available having been used ten years ago in the Fox Daredevil movie. Norah Winters may be available if she hasn't been used in any of Sony's Spider-Man films. The character could also be a cop. We haven't seen Jean DeWolff on the big screen yet, have we? What a great role for Yvette Nipar!
Instead of spending an hour sloshing through everything Stephen Strange goes through to become the Sorcerer Supreme, we get a mystery that needs to be solved, and Doctor Strange gets to remain something of a sphinx, which is as it should be.
It's possible that we might not actually see a Doctor Strange movie come to fruition. Marvel has quite a few other definite and rumored films in the queue before getting to Strange: Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, a Nick Fury prequel, a Black Widow prequel or sequel, a Hawkeye movie, Avengers 2, Ant-Man... If any one of these movies tanks at the box office, Marvel might pull the plug on the whole thing.
I do think it's time that Doctor Strange made it to the big screen, though, as he is easily one of the most interesting characters in the Marvel universe.

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