We’re glad to be back with you and delighted to be speaking about one of our favourite topics, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This week we take on the visually impressive Doctor Strange and the ever-growing Marvel TV presence. The spoiler alert here is for all things, in all ways. We talk about major plot points for the full Doctor Strange movie, and also most of the Marvel TV properties (i.e. Agent Carter, Agents of SHIELD, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage).
We talk about Doctor Strange first. It’s an origin story for the character and our first full exploration of magic in this universe. The use of magic is definitely a highlight in the movie, and the special effects are as good as everyone has said they are. The use of math and geometry to demonstrate magic in the world particularly delighted us. We also applaud the visual effects artists on their ability to ground the viewer amid world-bending effects.
We spend some time on the cast next, and Benedict Cumberbatch may have been a little on the nose for Jeff, but we both found him to be a serviceable Doctor Stephen Strange. Jeff’s fantasy pick for the role was Pedro Pascal (that’s Prince Oberyn Martell), and it would have been comforting to see him in another major role to know that his eyes still function after being squished like grapes. Talk turns to the Ancient One, played by a white actor, Tilda Swinton. We’ve talked about whitewashing before, and we’re going to keep bringing it up until it stops. We both agree that Tilda Swinton is great (hot take, that), but that the business decisions behind making a Tibetan character a Celtic lady suck eggs. I’m friendshipping Chiwetel Ejiofor and Benedict Wong because they’ve recently made two movies together, and we talk about how Rachel McAdams also appeared in the movie.
Jeff makes the great point that the whole film is an Iron Man retread, and the character of Christine sure did feel like Pepper Potts 2.0. The smart people over at The Next Picture Podcast would likely agree with this Iron Man theory—check out episodes #28 and #29 for more from them on how Iron Man became a template for all future Marvel movies.
Doctor Strange‘s place in the overall MCU is up for discussion next. Jeff and I agree that this movie stands apart from the others in a lot of ways. There are stylistic choices that echo the other films, and several direct references as well, but the strength of these properties are their ability to stand on their own, and this is no exception.
Our second segment is all about the television of the MCU, and we take a brief look at all of the shows that exist to this point. I don’t know if you know this, but I. Love. Agent. Carter. I’m so sad she’s gone. The great Hayley Atwell is going to be voice acting for an animated show featuring Peggy Carter, so at least there is that. Jeff believes that Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD has been made stronger by the events of the films, and finds it enjoyable how tied to the movies the show tends to be. Daredevil is doing dudely-brooding-superhero work on television, so if you’re feeling like there isn’t enough of that in the world, you can find it here. Jeff does report that Daredevil’s powers are interesting and that the close combat on the show is outstanding.
Jessica Jones won us both over with its focus on a female character, from her own perspective. The show does a great service in talking frankly about domestic and sexual abuse and including perspectives from women who have been affected by it. David Tennant’s villain is also extraordinarily creepy and terrifying. It’s a damn shame that we’re not slated to get another season of Jessica Jones until at least 2018.
Luke Cage is the newest Marvel TV resident, and both Jeff and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Luke Cage is a black show, made by black artists, and it’s the stronger for it. The show’s use of blaxploitation themes and very specific musical references is helping educate this massive Marvel audience on significant parts of American culture. Also, Simone Missick and Alfre Woodward are killing it on this show, and I’m excited to see the show even out as it finds its footing in a second season.
Pop Culture Kool-Aid Picks
Because we’ve been away, we’re both brimming with things to share with you. Jeff has two Kool-aid picks for you. The first is Ex Machina, which he really loved. It sounds a bit like great bottle episode of television, so check that out. The second is Joanne, Lady Gaga’s new album that has been burrowing into Jeff’s head and life over the past couple of weeks.
I’ve discovered some great autobiographical audio books, and particularly enjoyed Not My Father’s Son: A Family Memoir by Alan Cumming. He makes an observation about the physical dangers of presenting yourself as a woman that blew me away. Thank you, Alan Cumming. Thanks also to the Vancouver Public Library for the services they provide us, and specifically to the Inspiration Lab techs who help us time and again.