With this week seeing the release of Captain America: Civil War, it is not surprising that Marvel would be the topic of many news outlets. Not only does the film kick off the summer but the anticipated blockbuster also begins the next phase in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While Civil War is getting a great deal of attention, it is not the only Marvel film being talked about this week. After Captain America and Iron Man duke it out on the silver screen, moviegoers will head to the world of the supernatural as coming out this fall is Doctor Strange. Directed by Scott Derrickson, the film follows Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch)who journeys to Tibet where he discovers an oracle known as the Ancient One who teaches Strange the ways of the mystic arts. While many have endorsed the idea of Cumberbatch playing the Sorcerer Supreme, there has been conflict in the casting of the Ancient One. As readers of the comics will know, the Ancient One is depicted as an elder from the hidden village Kamar-Taj. In the upcoming movie however The Ancient One is being played by claimed actress Tilda Swinton.
Evidently some have spoken out against this casting choice indicating that this move on Marvel's part is just another example of Hollywood whitewashing; as in studio putting white actors in parts that should be given to individuals of foreign ethnicity. Among the critics is none other than beloved Star Trek actor: George Takei. Yesterday Takei went to Facebook to object against the idea of the British actress playing the Ancient One indicating that this choice is nothing more than a red herring and inciting that Marvel believes its viewers to be idiots by accepting this decision.
The debate of films of whitewashing parts is one that I tend not to think much of. Do not misinterpret my meaning. If a role is designated to be one center on a particular ethnicity, then it only makes sense to cast an actor that originates from that decent. However if the part does not have to be a particular race, then studios can flex a sense of creativity in this matter. A good example of this is another actor in the upcoming film: Chiwitel Ejiofor. The award winning actor will be playing known rival to Strange: Baron Mordo; a character who is usually depicted as being white. Some could argue that the 12 Years a Slave actor is wrong for the part because of his race, but no one has taken offense about this casting. In the case of this adventurer, the reason why I am fine with Ejifor being Mordo is not because of his, but rather his ability as an actor. The same thing could be said for Swinton as the Ancient One. While this is not the usual way to depict the character, this is not to Swinton will not have a solid performance as the mystic teacher. Further more the decision to cast the Ancient One could very well work to one of the traits that surrounds the character. In the comics the Ancient One is known for transcending the physical plane and becoming a being without form. Perhaps the Ancient One has already made this ascension but can return to the human realm in various forms. This idea is just speculation , but if that were the idea then that might explain the concept behind this casting decision.
I cannot deny that the casting of the Ancient One was different and I do understand where are people are coming from in their criticism towards the part. However I choose to believe in seeing how the role plays out before I make a judgment on the effectiveness of the casting; because for all I know Tilda Swinton may very well keep true to the ideas behind the Ancient One. Like the ideas behind Doctor Strange, I think the best thing to do is view this movie with an open mind as it seems to be a blockbuster that is doing much in its mystic power to be different.
Doctor Strange hits theaters on November 4th.