Marvel’s CEO Kevin Feige and team have done a tremendous job with building and expanding the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Every film they have put to screen has been handled with care and the same can be said for the most recent offering of #DoctorStrange.
But what makes this film standout more so than some of the other Marvel films to date? The answer lies in its visuals. And who better to do the visuals than someone who worked on a previous Marvel film? That person would be Stephane Ceretti, previously the visual-effects supervisor on also eye-popping Guardians of the Galaxy.
Pulling Off The Visuals In 'Doctor Strange' Was A Unique Challenge
Ceretti was given the opportunity to work alongside director #ScottDerrickson to create a trippy and mind-altering look at Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme. Making the visuals to Doctor Strange simultaneously appear surreal and palpable was a big challenge for them, recalled Ceretti:
“The main driving thing for Scott was technically to try and make the magic physical in some ways. 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.”
The fights in the film were extremely well-choreographed, a mix of classic kung-fu imbued with magic. Though not your typical action sequences, the mystically-infused elements worked as the fighting style was nothing we'd ever seen before. That was thanks to one of the Sorcerer Supreme's legendary artists.
Steve Ditko's Art Heavily Influenced Ceretti And Derrickson
Ceretti also gave his thoughts on the real artist behind the visuals: Doctor Strange co-creator Steve Ditko. Known as one of the greatest comic book artists of all time, Ditko worked closely with Stan Lee and helped create hallucinogenic visuals to his storytelling for his Doctor Strange comics. If you’ve ever read a run from Ditko's era, then you could easily tell while watching the live action version that it was heavily influenced by his work. Ceretti elaborated how important it was for them to utilize Ditko'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.”
The combination of Ditko's influence with with today’s breakthrough #CGI technology gave 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 Doctor Strange featurette released before the movie titled ‘Universes Within.’
This featurette gives some insight on what they aimed for visually with the film. As #KevinFeige put it
“We’re now able to take what he (Ditko) 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.
The 3D Is Actually Worth The Price Of Admission
Before Doctor Strange, I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I saw a film in 3D. Let’s just said it had been a really long time. But the majority of the reviews made a point of advising that you see the movie in 3D, a rarity for most films. I felt a bit skeptical as I bought my ticket for 3D, I have to say that I’m glad I did.
The scene where Strange meets with #TildaSwinton’s character, 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 through the various realms of reality, the scene comes alive; the visuals dive right off the screen and give the audience a feeling of being in a hallucinatory dream sequence. So much happens all at once that it’s hard to pick up on every little detail, and that's not a bad thing. In an era in which most movies are converted to 3D in post and even with that, the 3D doesn't add much to the movie, Doctor Strange is one of the very few which begs to be seen in the medium. And while there were multiple eye-popping scenes, the 3D is worth the price of admission for that sequence alone.
Here’s what Ceretti had to say on how long it took his team to assemble that particular scene and the challenges behind it:
“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. 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 took their time with properly constructing the #3D aspect and their painstaking care shone through in the film's visual storytelling. Another scene that jumps right off the screen is the chase sequence with Doctor Strange and Baron Mordo when they are attacked by Kaecilius and his servants and the fight jumps to an alternate dimension in the middle of Manhattan.
This scene clearly draws heavily inspiration from both Christopher Nolan’s Inception and the Wachowskis' Matrix trilogy, among other films, but dialed up to 11. Those two films broke new grounds in the visuals department and helped lay the groundwork for #Marvel’s most visually stunning film yet:
“Obviously, when I read the script the first time, it [Inception] came up. 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.”
As Ceretti said, while Inception was one of their inspirations, the visuals in Doctor Strange pushed the envelope so much further than the 2010 film ever did.
‘Doctor Strange’ Is A Different Kind Of Film In Every Way
Doctor Strange is a unique movie, not just in superhero films, but for blockbusters in general. Though it does follow some of the familiar story elements from previous films (an origin story for our hero with a weak doppelganger villain), the formula that Marvel has created has worked. Doctor Strange is no exception to this, but with Marvel having laid the foundation for its cinematic universe since 2008, Doctor Strange enabled it to break its own rules in some fundamental ways.
As audiences become used to the superhero genre, Marvel must continue to be groundbreaking and constantly reinvent the stories it tells — and the ways it tells them — to remain relevant and enticing. If Doctor Strange is any indication, the studio will only continue to experiment and grow stronger in how dynamic its future films will be.
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