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Will ‘Doctor Strange’ Broaden the Marvel Brand?

With Doctor Strange only two weeks away, fans are wondering how the film will change the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The movie will be the second installment of MCU’s Phase Three, after this past May’s Captain America: Civil War. How will Doctor Strange broaden the Marvel brand? Let’s take a look.

Marvel’s Status Quo

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Other Fan Contributors have pointed out that so far, the Marvel Cinematic Universe can be a sexless, overcrowded place. The challenge of building a serialized, shared movie universe is that it can be hard to implement across-the-board changes when films focus on separate characters. The pervasive pattern seems to be that the Avengers and Captain America movies feel the most interconnected. The rest of Marvel’s films have incorporated various tie-ins to each other. Some movies, like Guardians of the Galaxy, remain more self-contained and exist on the fringes of the MCU.

On its own, Doctor Strange isn’t likely to affect how Marvel characters share film space with each other. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) isn’t scheduled to appear in any future movies until Avengers: Infinity War. Of course, Strange might have other as-yet unannounced appearances. Still, it doesn’t seem likely that Doctor Strange will directly change how Marvel’s film characters interact. Rather, the film’s focus on magic has a greater potential to influence the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Will the Magic of Doctor Strange Last?

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Phases One and Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe outright avoided magic. Only Thor and its sequel, The Dark World, came close to incorporating magic. Both films treated magic as a form of advanced science that humans do not yet understand, à la author Arthur C. Clarke.

Since Stephen Strange’s mythology has always been infused with magic, his debut film will formally introduce magic to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The TV show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is gearing up for some sort of Doctor Strange tie-in via the Darkhold, a mystical tome that’s connected to Strange in the comics. Still, none of Phase Three’s other films feature characters with significant connections to magic. Short of an actual cameo from Strange himself, it’s hard to say exactly how magic will affect future Marvel films.

Playing With the Formula

Another way that Doctor Strange might broaden the Marvel brand would be by subverting the standard structure of Marvel films. Some of the series’ recent installments have received criticism for utilizing overtly similar plot structures. One example is 2015’s Ant-Man, which — according to some fans — borrowed heavily from the first Iron Man film from 2008.

There’s no doubt that Marvel Studios has developed a winning method and tone for its superhero origin stories. All of Marvel’s recent films have been critical and financial successes. Nevertheless, Doctor Strange has the opportunity to branch out beyond Marvel’s tried-and-true formula and develop a different path to success. It’s hard to say what that different path would look like, but I’m sure the Sorcerer Supreme can figure it out. Phase Three is only in its early stages, so it’s time for a game-changer — and Doctor Strange could very well be it.

A New Infinity Stone?

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Infinity Stones aren’t new to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Tesseract contains the Space Stone, the Aether from Thor is the Reality Stone, and the Orb from Guardians of the Galaxy is the Power Stone. Moreover, Vision carries the Mind Stone in his forehead. Based on the comics, we’re still two Infinity Stones short of the six that Thanos needs for Avengers: Infinity War. The missing gems are the Time and Soul Stones.

True to the comics, Doctor Strange will introduce the Eye of Agamotto, an artifact that can manipulate time. Some fans have speculated that the Eye of Agamotto will be a containment module for the Time Stone. According to the comics, the Eye of Agamotto doesn’t have any overt connections to the Time Stone. But it’s possible that the Marvel Cinematic Universe will combine the two artifacts for the sake of simplicity. In doing so, Marvel might finally incorporate a well-known science fiction trope: time travel.

Even if it’s not actually the Eye of Agamotto, the Time Stone will reverberate throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Time travel has the ability to reshape the foundation of Marvel’s films. That, in turn, could affect Marvel’s traditionally linear storytelling. Yet, time travel could also open an ugly can of worms for Marvel, so the challenge would be not to confuse or alienate fans. Nevertheless, it’s possible that the Eye of Agamotto will cause Doctor Strange to have a lasting impact on the future of Marvel films.

Doctor Strange changes your reality beginning on Nov. 4, 2016.


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