ByKit Simpson Browne, writer at
Writer-at-large. Bad jokes aplenty. Can be gently prodded on Twitter at @kitsb1
Kit Simpson Browne

(WARNING: The following contains giant, hulking plot SPOILERS for Marvel's Doctor Strange, as well as some detailed discussion of their possible real-life influences. Proceed with whatever level of caution the all-seeing Eye of Agamotto suggests to you is wise — especially if you're Ike Perlmutter.)

Now, there are a whole lot of perfectly sensible reasons to like — née love — 's . It is, after all, a riotously entertaining yet singularly weird superhero movie featuring some of the best actors Hollywood has to offer, all set in the widely beloved .

As it turns out, though, there might just be another, sneakier reason to feel a strong, aching fondness for the film. Y'see...

Doctor Strange Might Well Be An Allegory For Marvel Studios' Internal Power Struggle

It also features explodey magic hands. [Doctor Strange/Marvel Studios]
It also features explodey magic hands. [Doctor Strange/Marvel Studios]

Yup, that's right. It's entirely possible to interpret Doctor Strange's central plot as being an extended — and surprisingly frank — allegory for ' recent internal conflict: An internecine battle that left Kevin Feige as the undisputed head honcho of Marvel Studios, and substantially limited the power base of controversial Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter.

For that to make sense, though, it's worth going over some of the (still sketchy) details of just how that internal fight went down, and what caused it.

And no, it wasn't Loki. [The Avengers/Marvel Studios]
And no, it wasn't Loki. [The Avengers/Marvel Studios]

It's difficult to know for sure what started the rift, but it seems that at some point in the past decade, Kevin Feige, the President of Marvel Studios, and Isaac "Ike" Perlmutter, the CEO of Marvel Entertainment (and thus theoretically Feige's boss), had some sort of ideological or logistical falling out. Whatever the cause — and many suspect Perlmutter's widely reported conservatism and apparent intolerance — the battle ultimately concluded last year, when Disney (who owns Marvel Entertainment) opted to have Feige report directly to Disney Studios chief Alan Horn. This took Feige — and thus the entire MCU — out of Perlmutter's orbit, thus apparently removing a key roadblock to a more modern, progressive approach to filmmaking. If so inclined, you can even read more about it right here.

How Does That Relate To Doctor Strange, Though?

Other than by allowing it to get made, of course. [Doctor Strange/Marvel Studios]
Other than by allowing it to get made, of course. [Doctor Strange/Marvel Studios]

Well, here's the thing:

(Note: This is where those aforementioned giant, hulking plot SPOILERS start to kick in.)

One of the central strands of Doctor Strange's plot relates to the conflict between the Ancient One-headed guardians of Earth who train Strange, and the Ancient One's former student Kaecilius — as played by Mads Mikkelsen. Kaecilius, as it turns out, has done a deal with the dread Dormammu that would allow him to essentially halt the passage of time on Earth, allowing its people to never age. Of course, things are never quite as simple as that when dealing with inter-dimensional beings of pure malice, but the general gist is this: Kaecilius wants to stop anything from changing, while The Ancient One (as played by Tilda Swinton) wants to help the Earth to continue to grow, even if it means accepting some power from less-than-ideal sources in order to do so.

In other words, a dastardly, inherently conservative ne'er-do-well (for Kaecilius, read: the Trump-supporting Perlmutter, who notoriously reportedly advocated the replacement of as James "War Machine" Rhodes by because black people "look the same") faces off against a progressive, pragmatic team of heroes (for The Ancient One and co., read: Kevin Feige and the team at Marvel Studios, who seem to have implemented a far more progressive approach in the wake of Perlmutter's ousting). Which, in turn, would presumably make Doctor Strange's role within the film Doctor Strange, within the MCU: An outsider, brought in to offer an alternate approach, who (not-really-a-spoiler alert) ultimately helps to defeat the forces of conservatism with his outside thinking and strange methods.

Also he has a beard. [Doctor Strange/Marvel Studios]
Also he has a beard. [Doctor Strange/Marvel Studios]

Or, alternatively, it's entirely possible that the movie is just, y'know, a movie, and that Kevin Feige and co. wouldn't dream of airing their dirty laundry in a major motion picture. After all, this is still technically a Disney movie we're talking about.

It's certainly a tempting conclusion to draw, though — that Feige is willing to use his position of power to not only advocate a more progressive vision for the world, but also to subtly hint at the ultimate futility of conservatism (time changes everything, eventually, and desperately seeking to return things to an imagined sense of what they once were is arguably inherently self-defeating). Whether you agree with that ideological position or not, it's surely more interesting to imagine that it's been infused into the MCU than that we're all just overthinking this.

Or is that just overthinking the overthinking?

What do you think, then? Is Doctor Strange a complex analogy for Feige and Perlmutter's battle for control of Marvel Studios? Let us know below!

[Vanity Fair]


Latest from our Creators