You ever know someone who seems to have everything work out for them? My buddy Nick is like that when it comes to fantasy football. He’s won our league the last two years and could very well come out on top again this season, but the surprise is no longer the fact that he’s successful. The rest of us are used to that, whether we like it or not. What really perplexes us is how he achieves that success. He’s drafted a team that has won a championship. He’s had one autodrafted for him that won a championship. Certain players will perform below expectations on our teams and then experience a career renaissance on his. If any of us try to emulate what he does in the hope of reaping similar rewards, it blows up in our face.
What I’m getting at is that Nick is the Marvel Studios of our fantasy league: he is untouchable and seemingly unstoppable.
Look no further than Dr. Strange, the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that absolutely would not work anywhere else, and yet there it is making more money and garnering more acclaim for a studio that could go to the bathroom and poop out a successful film. Again, the surprising thing isn’t that a good Dr. Strange movie exists. It’s that it exists and none of us are shocked to see it happen.
(In case you were wondering, my fantasy team is more like the DC Cinematic Universe: it looks good on paper but no one else is ever impressed by it and it winds up tanking every year)
Unless you are a hardcore comic book nerd (and you’re reading my blog, so there’s a very high probability that you are), you’d be bullshitting me if you said that you cared at all about Dr. Strange before his debut on the big screen. Deadpool I would buy. He’s witty, breaks the fourth wall and has an infatuation with tacos. Thor I might believe, since many of us fantasize about drinking, eating and wielding a magical hammer for every moment of our lives. Ant-Man I would sneer and laugh in your face over. But Dr. Strange? I would either think that you were crazy or just really drunk and getting confused with Stranger Things if you told me you cared about the Sorcerer Supreme.
My point is that no one was going to be that upset if a Dr. Strange movie never saw the light of day. There just isn’t enough of a following for that character. Had Dr. Strange been released without Marvel’s logo behind it, there’s a very good chance it would’ve wound up flopping at the box office. Even Arrival only hauled in about $25 million during its opening weekend and that is a critically acclaimed sci-fi movie. Simply put, I think Marvel has built up so much goodwill with audiences and established such an impressive track record that people don’t worry that much about which character is being featured. If it takes place in the same universe as Iron Man and Captain America, it’s a must-see attraction.
And this isn’t to say that Dr. Strange is boring or not worth your time. It actually has a lot going for it, starting with the fact that it showcases a hero whose main power isn’t that he punches really hard or can shoot laser beams. Sure, Strange may come off as a less funny, cockier and douchier version of Tony Stark (as Kevin so eloquently put), but he’s played by Benedict Cumberbatch so we forgive him these trespasses. And really, it’s somewhat necessary for the doctor to act like a douche at the beginning so that he has room to grow and evolve as a character. Throw in a fun assortment of supporting players (including Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Mads Mikkelsen) and some eye-popping visuals and you wind up with a film that more than stands on its own. But you don’t leave the theater eagerly awaiting the next Dr. Strange movie, or at least I didn’t. I’m much more interested in seeing him interact with the rest of the MCU, and that’s where Marvel has us by the balls.
The reason that the shared universe idea hasn’t lost its luster yet is because Marvel is always bringing fresh faces into the picture. Look no further than Captain America: Civil War, which brought Black Panther and Spider-Man to the table. Like with any worthwhile film series, there always needs to be some new blood now and then to keep things from getting stale, but considering we’ve already been through two Avengers movies and there are still at least two more to go, is it absolutely essential to shake things up in this circumstance. I still wouldn’t consider myself a Dr. Strange fan, per say, but I liked his solo outing and now I have one more reason to look forward to seeing our heroes throwing down with Thanos. I’ve been lining Kevin Feige’s pockets with cash for the last eight years and from the looks of it, I won’t be stopping anytime soon.
It’s Marvel’s world, after all. We’re all just living in it.
Jesse’s Rating: B+