Three years ago when my buddy found out I’d moved to Los Angeles, he suggested I was secretly cast as Dr. Strange.
There were hundreds of reasons that could never have been true, but the one I retorted with was, “The fans would have a meltdown if Dr. Strange was Asian.”
Maybe it’s unfortunate that that’s the first place my mind went. But the backlash when traditionally white male lead characters are portrayed in film as either not white or not male is no small thing. To an extent, it’s understandable — race and gender-bending characters with decades of history and thousands of fervent followers for the sake of diversity shouldn’t be done lightly.
The more I thought about it though, the more I realized Asian Dr. Strange made sense.
Master surgeon? Asian. Arrogance that stems from his skills? Pretty Asian. Locks himself away in a solitary sanctuary to fight magical and mysterious threats which may or may not be delusions brought on by loneliness? Sooo Asian. It also solved a few problematic elements since having a plucky Asian sidekick or a wise old Asian master are well-trodden tropes if a character’s white.
That didn’t happen of course. Not long after, the ‘Batch was cast and his supporting staff began to fall into place. There was some controversy over race-bending The Ancient One to be white, but since they also gender-bent the character I was okay with it. It solved the aforementioned problematic element and Tilda Swinton is awesome.
Everyone’s a critic. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
People are judgmental by nature, from the early days when we judged whether or not to eat that sketchy-looking berry (don’t do it) to now judging whether or not we can beat that red light ahead (seriously, don’t do it). The thing is, as survival becomes less of a concern and more of a thing that just happens, that judgment is shifting to more and more trivial things. Like, for instance, movies.
The horrendously-titled Fant4stic was released this weekend and in an instant every critic regressed into primates who couldn’t wait to throw their word-poo at the lumbering monstrosity. If there were a way to harness all the hatred and bile poured onto that film, it could probably power the teleportation device it portrays. Admittedly I was among those naysaying the movie all the way up until its release. I wasn’t keen on the direction they’d chosen for the franchise and the near-constant reports of turmoil behind-the-scenes had me tempering my expectations for the project, along with that of anyone who would listen. I never dreamed it would be the mess it became.
I haven’t seen it, I have no plans to see it, and so I don’t have any real reason to continue deriding it. I’ve read the reviews though and I’m completely aware of its many flaws, most of which can be traced directly to “rumored” problems during production. The insane thing to me is how so many people profess that problem X, Y, and Z could have been solved if only they’d done A, B, and a little more C. Of course it seems that simple from the laptop they’re camped behind, but when you’re in the midst of a multi-million dollar production just trying to make it through the day, all those poor decisions become a lot more reasonable. I’m not trying to absolve anyone of blame here, because it’s obvious that there’s plenty to go around. But from my perspective, it all starts with the script.
This isn’t the first time I’ve written a treatment for Fox-produced Marvel films that had no hope of being made, bought, or even looked at. Yeah it’s a fairly pointless exercise, but I get to channel some frustrations with the real thing into something more creative. And hey, if it actually manages to entertain someone, even better. I am, however, deep in the throes of trying to write professionally, so I promised myself I would only spend a weekend on this (which I ended up doubling of course. In other words, a production weekend).
In an alternate timeline of real life, this is the movie that gets made by Marvel Studios to kick off their version of the franchise. As such, it is an origin story (wait, don’t go!) in that they start with no powers and acquire them during the course of the film. But really it’s a story about family. Assuming you’re a member of one of those, you know there is no real point of origin, they just flow from one generation to the next. Here our heroes aren’t teen prodigies anymore, neither are they full-fledged grown-ups, but somewhere in between trying to figure out how to interact with one another and find their place in the world (I’m almost 30, what did you expect from me?). If you make it through all 4,500+ words, you should notice inspiration from films like Apollo 13, Interstellar, Indiana Jones, and of course, parts of the comic books themselves. Also, dubious science. But that’s a given.
And I think I managed to avoid the dreaded “let me figure out how my powers work” montage, sans time jump. So there’s that.
Hope you like it.
Present day. A sandy beach looking out on the sprawling Atlantic Ocean. Two kids splash in the shallows, their skin deeply tanned from years of tropical sunlight.
One of them picks up a handful of wet sand and rears back to throw it when… the earth rumbles, the palm trees shiver in response. They look up: a mushroom cloud plumes from the center of the island. One of them stares in wonder while the other recoils in horror. They run into the ocean, swimming hard against the tide. The waves grow larger and larger as they get further out and they begin to tire. A massive wave threatens to push them under, when the trees on the shore are torn to shreds. The kids dive as the bomb’s impact washes over the shore and into the surf, flattening the wave.
One of the kids comes up for air, searching for the other in a panic and sighing in relief when they pop up nearby. They swim back to shore and follow the damage into the island, marveling at strange wisps in the air. When they reach the epicenter, they find a massive crater but no fire damage to speak of.