Marvel bows to China, releases lame ‘Ancient One’ statement

Ancient One Tilda Swinton

Hollywood has bowed before China for years now, but for numerous reasons its power players refuse to publicly acknowledge their Communist overlords. Reuters did superb reporting on the subject in July 2015, and fans of the MCU remember all too well the decision to make Mandarin a white guy for 2013’s Iron Man 3.

The release of Marvel’s Doctor Strange trailer put a giant spotlight on the latest capitulation to China — the casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One — and now the studio is in full spin mode. Marvel released a statement to Mashable on Tuesday that laughably cast its creative servitude in a self-congratulatory way:

“Marvel has a very strong record of diversity in its casting of films and regularly departs from stereotypes and source material to bring its MCU to life. The Ancient One is a title that is not exclusively held by any one character, but rather a moniker passed down through time, and in this particular film the embodiment is Celtic. We are very proud to have the enormously talented Tilda Swinton portray this unique and complex character alongside our richly diverse cast.”

Do not buy the diversity pivot. It is a cheap illusion, which is doubly sad because a film about Doctor Strange deserves top-notch propaganda smokescreens if studio executives decide to go that route.

Here is the truth, given by Doctor Strange co-writer C. Robert Cargil during an appearance on the Double Toasted podcast:

“Every single decision that involves the Ancient One is a bad one. And just like the Kobayashi Maru, it all comes down on which way you’re willing to lose. …

He originates from Tibet, so if you acknowledge that Tibet is a place and that he’s Tibetan, you risk alienating one billion people who think that that’s bulls**t and risk the Chinese government going, ‘Hey, you know one of the biggest film-watching countries in the world? We’re not going to show your movie because you decided to get political. If we decide to go the other way and cater to China in particular — if you think it’s a good idea to cast a Chinese actress as a Tibetan character, you are out of your damn fool mind and have no idea what the f**k you’re talking about.”

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Cargil, at least his statement comes from the heart. 

One can appreciate the honesty of a man who says it all comes down to cold, hard cash. Marvel Studios resists stating the obvious because to do so sends a depressing message to fans: Fidelity to a character’s integrity ends where China’s censorship bureau begins.

Is Tilda Swinton a great actor? Yes.

Will she do a good job with the role she’s been given? Highly likely.

Will Marvel throw its own characters under the bus if communist thugs threaten to block the movie from China’s market? There is no doubt about it.

As I said April 14, Marvel’s track record for making quality movies is impressive and will probably continue with Doctor Strange. It’s just a shame that it is willing to sacrifice its own creations at the alter of political correctness and the almighty Yuan.


Doctor Strange trailer: Marvel goes mystical for the win

Doctor Strange Ancient One

Marvel just released its first trailer for Doctor Strange, and once again the world has been reminded just how laughable it was for Steven Spielberg to say superhero movies are primed to go “the way of the Western.”

Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange and Tilda Swinton look ready to launch yet another franchise in what will be a welcome change of pace for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Doctor Strange NYC

The narration to the trailer gives fans a good glimpse of what they can expect from director Scott Derrickson’s take on The Sorcerer Supreme.

Ancient One: You’re a man looking at the world through a keyhole. You’ve spent your life trying to widen it. Your work saved the lives of thousands. What if I told you that reality is one of many?

Strange: I don’t believe in fairytales about chakras or energy or the power of belief.

Ancient One: You wonder what I see in your future? Possibility. … There are other ways to save lives … so much you don’t know.

Strange (after being introduced to the spirit world): Teach me.

Nothing can make this blogger — a man of faith, a lucid dreamer, and a fan of meditation — happier than to see Marvel Studios utilize a hero who travels to different dimensions, the spirit world, etc.

Doctor Strange

At the start of the trailer an unknown person (Perhaps Chiwetel Ejiofor as Baron Mordo?) says: “Stephen Strange, might I offer you some advice? Forget everything that you think you know.”

If that is the message at the heart of Doctor Strange, and it is coupled with Inception-like special effects, then Marvel Studios will have one heck of a movie in theaters on Nov. 4, 2016.

Marvel’s creative well is much deeper than the average moviegoer realizes, and the successful introduction of Steve Ditko’s character to a wide audience will help ensure that it is tapped for many years to come.

What are your thoughts on the new Doctor Strange trailer? Let me know in the comments section below.