By Michael Fraser
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown from the humble beginnings of the first Iron Man film into one of the most famous, and profitable, film franchises on the planet, with immensely successfully merchandise, tie-in comics and forays into both online and cable television.
The exponential success of the fan-dubbed MCU has led to massive growth in the character roster. It has grown from the team of six at the heart of Avengers Assemble to include comic-fan favourites like Daredevil, Quake, and Spider-Man, and this rapid expansion shows no signs of stopping.
2016 has been an especially big year for the character roster and this November promises further additions to round it off with ‘Doctor Strange’; bringing the MARVEL magician and several of the characters from his comics into the world of the MCU.
‘Doctor Strange’ has the potential to be a great movie; the special effects will be fantastic, the reality-bending sequences could have the same magic as The Matrix and Inception, and the cast is a list of fantastically talented actors who I am sure will play their roles with their usual magic.
However, allow me to draw your attention to one particular character – The Ancient One, Doctor Strange’s mentor in the mystic arts.
For those of you who haven’t read the comic, Doctor Steven Strange is a world famous gifted surgeon who, one day, is involved in a car accident that severely injures his hands. Lost, unable to perform operations, he travels the world to try and find a way to repair them. On his travels, he meets a Tibetan monk called ‘the Ancient One’, who teaches him the mystic arts and he becomes ‘Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme’.
MARVEL makes large amounts of money from China’s massive movie market (as an example, Avengers: Age of Ultron made more than 600 million dollars from China alone).
China is renowned for having a difficult political situation with Tibet. To this day, it is claimed that Tibet remains one of the most oppressed countries in the world. It is well known that the Dalai Lama operates in exile and, along with an Indian based group commonly known as ‘the Tibetan Government in Exile’, has repeatedly brought the issue of Tibet to the United Nations.
China’s film censors, who decide on the foreign films to be shown in the massively profitable movie market, denied entry to The Last Airbender in 2010. Several theories have emerged as to the reasoning of this, including one postulating that it was the result of similarities between the titular character’s and Tibetan culture. In the film version of Doctor Strange, the Ancient One is no longer from Tibet but Nepal.
And here we hit the issue.
But the spineless pursuit of money by MARVEL (and their ongoing non-diversity) is hardly surprising. I, for one, shall not be watching Doctor Strange when it is released in cinemas.