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We’re getting a Doctor Strange movie. Well… the chances are very good. While they have a director and a writer, Marvel hasn’t committed to a release date or anything, but let’s be honest. They’re going to make it. Very recently a rumor came out stating the Doctor Strange movie won’t be another origin story. And I am ALL for it. Why? Let me explain.
I think a lot of people today look down on 1989’s Batman because, while dark back then, it seems goofy and trite today. However, it’s an integral of comic book movie history and without it I don’t think we’d be where we are now in the genre. Since I know you guys all have the movie’s plot memorized, you’ll recall Bruce is already Batman in it. We see his parents getting shot, sure, but we never see his journey to become Batman. And it works. That movie was huge, and his origin’s omission never really caused the film to suffer.
These movies do not need to start with an origin story, especially with Marvel as established as it is. Plus, it’s been done before. X-Men didn’t really have a true origin story, nor did Thor. Each franchise found success without confusing people.
Look at the best superhero movies of their respective franchises. Spider-Man was good, Spider-Man 2 was great. Captain America was alright, Captain America: The Winter Soldier was great. Batman Begins was good, The Dark Knight was great. On and on and on. Why? Because the writers don’t have to spend 70 minutes setting up the main character. They can get right into the meat of it.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a good way to look at it, as that movie needed to set up the cosmic aspect of the MCU. Sure, there were hints, and the Asgardians were technically aliens, but there was so much more mythology to set up. So in the movie, we never really find out Peter Quill’s “origin” (not that it’s the same as say, a Spider-Man). Sure he becomes something of a leader, and they finally call him Star Lord, but he’s always more or less who he is.
Doctor Strange has a similar challenge in that it must set up the magic, mystical realm of the MCU. Or whatever its equivalent is. I’m not sure you can devote 70 minutes of screen time to setting up the good Doctor when you have such a huge world to explore. We could always get the origin in another way, but the need would be better fulfilled if he was battling magical horrors from beyond understanding right from the get go.
So Doctor Strange is one of the best surgeons in the world. Maybe the best. However, after an accident damages his hands, he’s unable to do his work. He ends up at a Himalayan monastery and blah blah blah he learns magic. He returns from the desolate mountain range a changed man and begins his quest to protect the world. If you’re thinking that sounds like a magical Tony Stark, you’re right.
And a little like Thor. There’s a lot of Peter Quill in there too. Oh, and from the sounds of it, the upcoming Ant-Man movie will have a character similar to that in Scott Lang. Thus, you see my issue. We’ve seen a lot of this kind of origin story. Mostly because it’s the best kind of origin story. We love to see protagonists who are good at something. It makes us like them. Having them be arrogant just gives the character the easiest kind of arc. When these characters are brought low, we sympathize with them, and when they eventually win it’s a solid moment. It’s a tried and true formula… and it’s been done almost to death.
That’s why it’d be best to have Doctor Strange start out different from all those listed above. He’s already humbled, already knowledgeable, already skilled. He’s more mysterious than Tony Stark, less foolhardy than Thor, much more stoic than Peter Quill. You can arc a character on anything, maybe he thinks he can defend this realty all by himself when he really can’t. Maybe he’s loosing the will to fight, I don’t know. I do know that it doesn’t have to be an origin story every time.
This is probably the most important. Marvel has a ton of movies coming out in the next half dozen years and that’s just that company alone. DC has a bunch of their own coming out, FOX has X-Men, Sony has whatever Spider-Man property sticks. We’re looking at a ton of superhero movies, people.
This means that the public will burn out on the same old superhero movies pretty soon. If they want to survive, Marvel will need to find a way to stand out. To be able to say this isn’t just a superhero movie, it’s a Marvel movie. I don’t think the shared universe aspect will cut it. It’s no longer shiny and new.
Obscure comic properties like Guardians of the Galaxy is a good start, as is finding unusual casting, directing, and writing choices. But the big change is the one you make to formula. When all other comic book movies blur together, those will stand apart.
In the articled I linked to in the beginning, their source says “…Marvel’s new thing is no more origin stories.” Oh how I want this to be true. It will force them to get creative and tell their stories in ways that haven’t yet been told before. It’ll be hard to pull off to be sure. The temptation to stick with what has worked in the past is always all too enticing. But if they can do it, they’ll guarantee themselves a long future.
I hope this is the start of something great. Ant-Man’s weird chronology seems like a departure from the usual origin story as well, so who knows. Marvel needs to break out of comic book tropes and stand on its own, and I think a big part of that is doing away with the typical “origin story”.