"Doctor Strange" led the way this weekend at the box office, earning a whopping $85 million in ticket sales.
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But in an era when superheroes dominate the big screen, with some of these films gaining critical acclaim as others fall flat -- the competition is tough. Also, revenue isn't the only deciding factor on whether a Marvel or D.C. Comics film is a success.
Like "Deadpool" earlier this year, "Doctor Strange" sets itself apart from the pack by making conscious, fundamental choices that audiences and critics both seem to appreciate. Director Scott Derrickson recently sat down with Entertainment Weekly's Anthony Breznican for a candid look at Marvel's latest leading man.
The first and most obvious difference from say a "Batman" or "Iron Man" is that "Doctor Strange" opens up the Marvel and superhero universe even more than 2014's "Guardians of the Galaxy," a similarly well-received film. "Guardians" took fans beyond Earth and into other worlds. "Strange" goes even further, opening up Earth, beyond and then some.
The movie also has fun playing with reality and taking things past the tangible, using imagination and the character's classic mystical story line.
"I felt very strongly that art was still progressive and had not been imitated," Derrickson told EW. "We just tried to push the boundaries as far as we could."
No spoilers here, but the visuals are like nothing you've seen before, including the gritty "Dawn of Justice" and bloody "Deadpool" that both came out in 2016. It's also a streamlined film, focusing on one man's path to greatness, which may both surprise and entice fans who might be exhausted from films like "Civil War" a few months back that had a bonanza of heroes crammed into one flick.
This movie is focused while still being tied into the rest of the universe for upcoming projects. (You'll see how when you see the movie.)
Minor Spoilers ahead!
Another big difference that fans and critics may have noticed is the lack of guns and destruction. That was intentional.
In one scene, what is destroyed is actually restored. We won't ruin it for you with more detail, but this is certainly unique in this genre.
"The cliché is every Marvel movie ends with a fight scene where you’re destroying a city and you’ve got to close a portal. I thought, let’s un-destroy a city," the director explained to Breznican.
As for the lack of firearms, it was not a political statement, just that Derrickson felt, "There’s nothing less magical than a gun. Getting [rid] of any kind of traditional hardware was necessary to make it about more than destructiveness ... I really wanted to have set pieces that were not about mass destruction and gunfights."
One of the last, simple elements that separates this film from others this year is it's fun and mostly light. It's a PG-13 movie that focuses on escapism. Sure, there is action and thrilling sequences, but there's no having to choose between your favorite hero as with "Civil War;" there's no gloom and "Doom" as in "Dawn of Justice;" and there no raunch as in "Deadpool."
It's reminiscent of last year's surprise hit "Ant-Man." Both cast a big-name leading man (last year Paul Rudd, this year Benedict Cumberbatch) and a solid supporting cast ("Ant-Man" had Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña and T.I, while "Strange" has Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams and Tilda Swinton, among others.)
In the end, "Doctor Strange" is a movie fans don't have to analyze or debate with their friends, but sit back, relax and enjoy. They'll still probably debate it anyway though.