Why is Marvel’s Doctor Strange openly ripping off Inception/Batman Begins?

Hindustan Times | ByRohan Naahar, New Delhi
Sep 28, 2016 02:56 PM IST

Doctor Strange, the new Marvel movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch, has way too many similarities with Inception and Batman Begins. We investigate.

On Tuesday, a barrage of Doctor Strange news hit the web. News, interviews and set reports were accompanied by new posters and a special, IMAX trailer. But, looking at the new footage and posters, one thing caught our attention - something we were not taking too seriously until now: Doctor Strange looks an awful lot like Christopher Nolan’s movies. And we just can’t ignore it anymore.

Nolan’s Inception (R) and Doctor Strange (L). Notice anything?
Nolan’s Inception (R) and Doctor Strange (L). Notice anything?

The similarities are so in-your-face distracting that we’re having a hard time justifying them. We don’t expect this from Marvel Studios. If anything, they mostly rip-off their own work. They’ve stuck to their tried-and-tested formula for a dozen movies now, so it’s odd for them to break that streak all of a sudden. And that too so carelessly.

OK, so let’s see what we’re working with here.

First and foremost, the most obvious visual similarity has to be the folding city. Now, you might say that Nolan himself lifted the cool visuals from MS Escher...

...but we’d never really seen anything like it in a movie before Inception. So it doesn’t count.

Here’s the shot from Doctor Strange

And here’s the one from Inception

But you’re right. This one was easy to spot. Which isn’t to say that it’s all right for them to have done it in the first place.

But that’s not all. There’s more.

Let’s talk about the basic premise for a minute.

We have a wealthy man (played by a suave British star) with a weakness for fast cars and cold, modern architecture, questioning his existence. Not to mention staring pensively out of the windows of his antiseptic-looking penthouse.

Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne (top) and Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Stephen Strange.
Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne (top) and Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Stephen Strange.

Who then travels to a mystical Far-Eastern land to learn essential superhero skills...

Stills from Batman Begins (top) and Doctor Strange.
Stills from Batman Begins (top) and Doctor Strange.

Forgetting to shave while he’s there...

No razors in the Far East.
No razors in the Far East.

But not forgetting to get some serious martial arts training...

Still not convinced? How about these new character posters that Marvel released...

And now, if you superimpose them on each other, this is what you get:

Marvel movies have never really been known for their originality, but they often skirt by because of how well they work within the formula they’ve set for themselves. And yes, Christopher Nolan is a legend. But shouldn’t there be a line between shameless rip off and reverent homage?

We can’t even blame director Scott Derrickson (Sinister, The Exorcism of Emily Rose). He’s a talented horror filmmaker who’s working in a strict, committee-driven environment (Marvel Studios). But someone, at some point, should have said something.

Also, why aren’t more people calling out Marvel for this move? Yes, they’ve built solid goodwill over the years, but there comes a point when you have to call a spade a spade.

This is the spade.

Doctor Strange will arrive in theatres on November 4, and we’ll be looking extra hard to see if there are any more ‘tributes’ in the final film.

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