Character Diversification in DOCTOR STRANGE

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Marvel is to release yet another superhero film, but this one is a little different. The comic book superhero from 1963, Doctor Strange is out in cinemas this November. Stephen Strange is a superhero without bodybuilder muscles, a spandex suit, or supernatural powers. But he does have magic! He’s the first blockbuster protagonist practicing the dark arts.

So what does Doctor Strange do? He travels across dimensions protecting the earth from monsters and demons. The comic book has been in print for 50 years, during which Strong has revealed ten main powers. He can project energy and manipulate it, he can transform matter, animate inanimate objects, teleport, create illusions, control minds/possessions, astral projection, travel between dimensions and time, defence and attack spells and he practices dark magic.

Magic as a power is a new creative direction for Marvel. Usually, their characters are supernatural or use technology to enhance their skills. This makes Strange an intriguing character and adds a layer to the Marvel cosmos. He has a rich origin story, both in a literal and figurative way.

It's clear that the company has not run out of ideas, and continues to be relevant. The continuous development of the superhero genre is what is going to keep it alive.  Recent films have averted stereotypical heroes. This is starting to reflect on the casting of recent roles. Stereotypical blockbuster actors have made room for their dramatic counterparts. It's scandalous. This might be because the cinematic roles aren't as two-dimensional as before. But there’s always a chance that Marvel is attracting dramatic actors and not the other way around.

Characters with interesting origin stories and intellect are becoming more frequent. Strange is definitely one of them. Cumberbatch is not what you would call a cliché Marvel actor. With his long tenure of serious roles makes his casting as Strange a bit, well, strange. Superhero films generally attract blockbuster actors as opposed to theatre enthusiasts.

Cumberbatch's take on Sherlock for the BBC series in 2010 is one of his most distinguished roles. Although some might think Strange and Sherlock are similar, Cumberbatch disagrees. The actor has stated that he finds them to be different, in every way but in their intelligence. This, some might find surprising. The two are arrogant, and both protect society. But we’ll have to wait and see!

The supporting characters are also interesting. The Ancient One portrayed as an Asian male in the comic is played by Tilda Swinton, a white female. Critics have suggested that they at least should have maintained the same ethnicity, but this was an expected mass reaction.

Benedict Wong plays Strong's sidekick, ironically called Wong. But he isn’t a traditional partner-in-(fighting)-crime. The actor told Den of Geek that “he’s much more of a drill sergeant.” It’s a nice change of pace to the cliché Robin-Batman duo. We also get the pleasure to see Chiwetel Ejifor as the villain, Baron Mordo. The Academy Award winner and 12 Years a Slave actor contributes to the diverse and drama infused cast. With a cast like that the odds are in favour of a box office hit.

It’s safe to say that the superhero genre is developing. Cumberbatch told Empire that Doctor Strange “is another moment during Marvel’s evolution”. The publishing company seems to be assuming their influence to diversifying casts and roles. To quote Uncle Ben, “with great power, comes great responsibility”. Let's welcome a new wave of egalitarian films, and leave archaic stereotypes in the past, where they belong.


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