Thursday, January 16, 2014

Doctor Strange Casting

Well, it seems that for Phase Three, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is going to get a lot weirder.

That's probably a good thing though. If the studio decided to introduce all the weird at once, this big, ambitious, Marvel project may have failed. Comic books and comic movies do not work in the same way, not everything parallels between the two mediums. Comic books are more catered to comic fans and comic newcomers, but movies? Those are for general audiences. Marvel was smart to establish its universe and slowly but surely introduce many elements that made the universe tick. Now, after the success of "The Avengers" in 2012 and Marvel Phase Two off and running, its time for things to get weird, and people will love it. All because Marvel took their time to get their characters and their worlds right.

Last week we learned that Michael Douglas and Paul Rudd will be in "Ant-Man," due out in November 2015. Ant-Man is a hero who has the ability to shrink his body to a tiny size, as well as having the ability to communicate with ants. Those two powers aren't exactly the traits children dream of having when they say they want to be a superhero. But its part of Marvel, and in the comics, Ant-Man was a founding member of The Avengers. Because his powers are so strange, its probably good they held off on the character, patiently waiting for the right time to introduce him.

We know "Ant-Man" will be kicking off Marvel Phase Three after "Avengers: Age of Ultron." We officially learned this week of another new character being introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a man by the name of Dr. Strange. To describe the character in a nutshell, imagine an Harry Potter as an American, living in New York City, with a somewhat arrogant personality and an Asian man-servant. That's Doctor Strange. The doctor is known in the Marvel Universe as the Sorcerer's Supreme-meaning he's our greatest defense against all magical and mystical threats. Yes, he could fuck up Lord Voldemort faster than you could say "Avada Kedevra."

So who to cast as Doctor Strange? The rumor a couple days ago was Johnny Depp. I both liked and somewhat disliked the rumor. Look, I understand that Hollywood has a strategy when they cast for superhero movies. When studios cast for well-known superheroes (think Batman and Superman), they tend to cast lesser known actors for those films. It makes sense, people will see a Batman movie just because he's Batman. He's not just one of the most popular superheroes in the world, he's a weaver of American popular culture. So why not hire a lesser-known actor to play him? The studio saves money and possibly creates a new rising star. Think about it, we all know who Christian Bale is in 2013, but how about before "Batman Begins?" Now, for lesser-known superheroes (like Dr. Strange) the studios will hire the A-Lister to headline the movie. How else does Hollywood plan to fill theater seats for a character barely anybody knows about? That was part of Iron Man's success, not many people knew who Iron Man was before he got popular, so hire someone like Robert Downey Jr. and market the film accordingly. This strategy has worked flawlessly for Hollywood in recent years, and it should be applied to Dr. Strange. RDJ himself is done with Marvel after Avengers 3, so the studio needs a new big face to lead the franchise. Hiring somebody like Johnny Depp to play Strange is a good idea.

But its also part of the problem, when describing Dr. Strange as a character, he sounds perfect for Depp. But I always felt Johnny Depp had a lot in common with both Nicholas Cage and Jack Nicholson; all three actors have huge talent but sometimes their performances go off the rails. Look at Depp in the last few "Pirates" movies, or "Dark Shadows," or "The Lone Ranger," he's practically playing a weird version of himself and I just don't want that for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

However, with all this said, the rumors have been squashed tonight. It has been said that Depp is out and that a new actor has been cast. They are not rumored for the part, but apparently have actually signed an agreement. That actor is...
Yep, apparently it is Jon Hamm who is now supposedly confirmed for the character. I really don't know if I can take this as fact yet. But Hamm is at least a safer bet compared to Depp, and Hamm is well known enough that his presence in a trailer will get people excited. If Hamm does indeed get the gig, this will be an interesting gig for him. Hamm has done mainstream acting before, but nothing this commercial and nothing this strange. I feel he's perfectly capable of pulling off the material, in fact, I kind of want him too.

No matter what though, with the more success Marvel gets, the more ambitious they are becoming. As a massive Marvel fan and just as a movie geek in general, this is great news. I am so happy the studio is going to get into weirder territory and I think general audiences are willing to go in that direction. I hope everything keeps working out for the studio, the bar keeps being set higher and higher, and you can't argue against that.

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