Marvel clearly has the benefit of the doubt. After telling a space-opera story with a bunch of misfits in Guardians of the Galaxy, crafting a comedic heist film in Ant-Man, and making a political thriller in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Marvel can do no wrong. Marvel’s CEO in Kevin Feige has done a tremendous job with this Marvel Cinematic Universe. Every film they have put to screen has been handled with care and the same goes once again for the next Marvel outing in Dr. Strange. I had a chance to check out Dr. Strange on opening night and I have to say though it may not be one of Marvel’s best, it is a solid entry in the MCU.
But what makes this film standout more so than some of the other Marvel films to date? The answer lies in it’s visuals. Who better to do the visuals than someone who worked on a previous Marvel film? That person would be Stephane Ceretti who was the visual-effects supervisor on Guardians of the Galaxy.
Ceretti’s Visuals in ‘Dr. Strange’ Was Challenging But Paid Off In A Big Way
Stephane was given the opportunity to work alongside Scott Derrickson to create a trippy and mind-altering look at Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme. Making the visuals to Dr. Strange appear surreal and palpable was a big challenge for them:
“The main driving thing for Scott was technically to try and make the magic physical in some ways,” Ceretti recalls. “That’s why, for example, when they open portals, it looks like they’re made of real sparks, but they behave in a different way than you’re used to seeing them. The buildings that you’re distorting, they’re made of material that we know, but they behave in a different way.” -Stephane Ceretti
The fights in the film were extremely well choreographed, even if it was kung-fu mixed with magic. It worked for the characters as well as the story they were trying to tell. Though not your typical action sequences, the mystical infused elements worked as the fighting style was nothing we’ve ever seen before.
Steve Ditco Heavily Influenced Both Ceretti and Derrickson
Ceretti also gave his thoughts on the real artist behind the visuals: Steve Ditco. Known as one of the best comic book artists, Ditco worked closely with Stan Lee and helped create hallucinogenic visuals to his storytelling for his Dr. Strange stories. If you’ve read some of the Dr.Strange comics and have seen some of his work, then you can easily tell that there was plenty of heavy inspirations coming from Ditco. Even Ceretti elaborated how important it was for them to utilize some of Ditco’s artwork and make it pop on the big screen:
“[Ditko’s] use of colors and shapes was pretty uncommon at the time. And actually, today, we can only do those things on the computer. Even some of the design that he did looked like fractals, which were not even invented at the time.” -Stephane Ceretti
Having seen the film, I can honestly say that the team definitely used some of Ditco’s visuals as motivations to make Dr. Strange’s visuals mind-blowing. Also with today’s up-to-date CGI technology, this gives the team an edge that they may not have had a decade ago.
To give you an idea on how impressive some of the visuals truly are, look no further than the Dr. Strange featurette that was released a few weeks ago titled ‘Universes Within.’
This featurette gives you a great indication on what to expect visually from the film. As Feige puts it, “We’re now able to take what he (Ditco) put in the mid-60s’, these trippy comic panels and comic covers and we now have the technology to put that to big three-dimensional space on the movie screen is amazing. And, we’re not pulling back.”
Well said Mr. Feige, well said.
3-D Is Well Worth The Price Of Admission
I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I saw a film in 3D. Let’s just said it’s been a really LONG time. However the majority of the reviews I read online before I went in to see this film, mentioned that you should see this movie in 3D. I felt a bit skeptical going into the theater but I gave it a try anyways and I have to say that I’m glad I did.
The scene where Strange meets with Tilda Swinton’s character in The Ancient One was one of those scenes that stood out visually, especially in 3D. When Strange goes into his “astral form” and is taken on a journey into the realms of reality, the scene comes alive as many of its visuals dive right out of the screen and gives the audience a feeling of being in a dreamlike sequence. Some much is happening all at once that it’s hard to pick up on every little detail that shines onto the large screen. However without the use of the 3D, the scene may feel a bit stale where it doesn’t have enough life to it.
Here’s what Ceretti had to say on how long it took his team to assemble and the challenges behind that one particular scene:
“It took many, many months to make it work and find the right balance between the effects and the storytelling, and finding the right length and the right rhythm and the right visuals,” he recalls. “We had a motion-control camera with a motion-control rig to kind of put Benedict into the story and film the elements that we needed for him.”
Ceretti and his team knew how to construct the 3D properly and proves it through its visual storytelling. Another scene that I remember jumping right off the screen was the chase sequence with Dr. Strange and Baron Mordo being attacked by Kaecilius and his servants. You can watch a part of this sequence below:
Don’t get me wrong, the visuals are absolutely stunning on its own merits but is enhanced tremendously with the 3-D effects in the theater. The kaleidoscopic fight between Strange, Mordo, and Kaecilius is made all the more impressive in 3D. This scene clearly draws heavily inspiration from both Christopher Nolan’s Inception and the Wachowskis Matrix trilogy. Those two films broke new grounds in the visuals department and helped pave the way for Marvel’s most visually-stunning film yet:
“Obviously, when I read the script the first time, it came up,” he says. “But we didn’t look too much at it. We just looked at it a couple times. We all knew the film very well. We thought there were tons of good ideas in it, but there’s also other stuff in the comics that’s raising the same ideas, and we’re still trying to push it further. We looked at [Inception], but we kind of elaborated from it and we wanted to make it 10,000 times more dynamic and use it on a much bigger scale, too.” -Stephane Ceretti
‘Dr. Strange’ Is A Very Different Kind Of Film And That’s A Good Thing
Like some of the other Marvel films, Dr. Strange is a very different film. Though it does follow some of the familiar story elements from previous films (an origin story for our hero with a weak villain), the formula that Marvel has stuck with has worked whether we like it or not. Dr. Strange is no exception.
It’s yet another film that proves Marvel will take risks on characters majority of the audiences may not be familiar with. Dr. Strange grossed an impressive $85 million domestic opening weekend. The loyal fanbase is there and will continue as long as Marvel keeps doing their thing. If for no other reason, go see Dr. Strange simply for it’s visuals. It truly is a visual masterpiece and I highly recommend seeing it in 3D. I’d give Dr. Strange a solid score of 7.5/10.