Comic Films Sacrifice Story for the Big Screen


Cara Zambrano, Staff Writer

A few weeks ago, the world had the chance to meet yet another superhero on the big screen: Doctor Strange. The Oscar-nominated, Emmy-winning actor Benedict Cumberbatch leads the audience into Dr. Stephen Strange’s life. Strange, a successful New York neurosurgeon, ends up losing control of his hands after a car accident, and following a restless search for a cure, eventually becomes a master of mystical martial arts. Even though an adaptation of Doctor Strange’s comic books is not a novelty, the flattening of this character’s storyline to fit the big screen and the cheesy overemphasis on visual effects makes the movie indistinguishable from others in the Marvel film stream.

The fast-paced and dull story is due to the screenwriters’ duty to brief the viewers in the very complicated backstory of the superhero — since the majority of the public is unfamiliar with it, this leaves little to no time to build to a climax. The action scenes — or any emotion-provoking episodes — seem out of place and rushed, since it feels like the audience is barely acquainted with these characters. While a little background on Strange is fundamental to his story, it should not occupy most of the movie, as the length of the picture is limited.

What seems more troubling, besides the masses’ idolization of these flat storylines, is the addition of features or characters that are obviously there to expand the target audience. As a person who grew up reading comic books, it is quite upsetting to see stories taken out of their essence so they can easily fit into a film’s market. Strange’s main love interest, for example, is his archnemesis’ niece, but in the movie she is a former girlfriend who is also his co-worker. This is an obvious attempt to let romance play a role in the story, as it would not be feasible for the film to also tell the story of his principal romantic partner. Besides, these producers hire household names — in Strange’s case, people like Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton and Rachel McAdams — to give some credibility to the picture’s quality, and spend the rest of the budget on visual effects to create the illusion of a good film.

Though it is cool that superheroes are now common stars in modern cinema, the appreciation for this once marginal interest should not be exploited to the point where all these movies seem the same. The uniqueness of superheroes should be maintained instead of merged into a massified storyline. It seems that while comic books are being praised for both their artistic merit and narrative depth, their adaptations on the silver screen are, apparently, getting away with sticking to the visuals while dismissing the individuality of their main characters.

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Email Cara Zambrano at [email protected]