EDITORIAL: Johnny Depp as Doctor Strange? I’ve Heard Better
If you haven’t heard by now, news broke tonight, via the folks over at Latino-Review, that Marvel has met with Hollywood mega-star Johnny Depp in regards to the role of Doctor Strange in the upcoming film. The site says that Depp is quite interested in joining the Marvel world and that Disney is willing to shift filming schedules for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and Alice in Wonderland 2, both of which Depp is attached to star. Of course, this hasn’t been confirmed at this point, so enjoy the bit of salt needed with this news.
On the surface, this looks to be a grand idea and many fans would agree as Depp is usually one of the first names to come up when the topic of Doctor Strange casting comes up. If you break it all down, it makes perfect sense in fact. To date, Depp has made Disney a shiz-ton of money, getting into the billions, yes BILLIONS of dollars. Most notably is the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, which is moving towards its fifth film, slated for a 2016 release date. Then there is the live-action adaption of Alice In Wonderland, which saw Depp re-team with his long-time collaborator Tim Burton. which took in over $334 million. This is the exactly the type of draw that Marvel and Disney would want for the character. He’s not as well known as some of the other characters, so there would need to be a reason for average Joe movie goers to pay money to see the film and Depp could be that draw.
But, I think that’s where the love ends for me. The very fact that people expect Depp to fill the role is enough for me to not like the idea. It comes across as a very uninspired and safe choice. If he had a flawless record in regards to performances over the last five or so years, I’d be singing a different tune here, but let’s look at his last few projects and you’ll see what I mean. In 2013, you have one of the biggest non-performers of the year. Now, I’m not saying that’s all Depp’s fault, but one of the biggest complaints from fans and critics alike was that Depp’s take on Tonto was nothing more than Captain Jack with a weird accent…or lack of accent…whatever. Almost like he dialed it in. Speaking of Captain Jack, the last installment of Pirates was by far and away the least popular and least profitable of the franchise. Not to say it didn’t make money, because it still made a lot. But when compared to the previous three films, On Stranger Tides took in about $60 million less than the Curse of the Black Pearl, previously the least successful of the franchise. That’s a pretty severe drop. The problem? Once again, Depp was criticized for giving an uninspired performance.
Depp’s last foray involving Tim Burton was Dark Shadows, a film that was critically panned and despised by domestic movie-goers. Had it not been for the foreign box office, this movie would have been a massive flop. I bet you can guess the complaints on this one. If you look outside the “geek” realm to his other films, such as The Rum Diary and The Tourist, the Johnny Depp draw wasn’t much help either. In the case of The Rum Diary, the film barely, and I mean barely made back its budget, with the domestic box office bringing in the majority of the money. The Tourist is a whole different animal in that the over-seas box office provided for 75% of the world wide box office take. In both of these films, Depp didn’t get the love you’d expect from the critics.
So what’s my point? Yes, Depp is a huge movie star and has some impressive projects on his resume, but that doesn’t mean that he’s the best fit for the role and not necessarily the best casting for the sake of box office returns. But let’s also look at things from a Disney standpoint. In 2016, the House of Mouse is expected to drop sequels to both Alice in Wonderland and Pirates of the Caribbean. Also expected to release that year…Doctor Strange. Now, as I mentioned above, Latino-Review claims that Disney is willing to re-arrange the filming schedules for one, or both, of those project to accommodate Depp. This is the part I’d question most. Is Disney willing to postpone two massive money-makers so that Depp can star in a film with a B-level character (Sorry fans, but not many outside of the nerd world know who Strange is) that may make some money? That’s a big, brassy-balled move. Then there’s the script. The LR article even mentions that a re-write would be necessary, as the script they saw places Strange at about 30 years old. Unless they try to pass Depp off as 30, they’d need to adjust that. Depp is a high-caliber actor and that may be enough for them to re-write that, but that too is a big change.
To sum things up, I don’t think Johnny Depp is a horrible choice and I know there are certainly worse options out there that would send me and other fans over the edge. However, I think there are more inspired choices that are more accessible, both financially (Marvel is cheap, remember?) and schedule wise. You need to look no further than the pages of Comic Book Therapy to find seven pretty good choices! (CBT’s Warriors Three Cast Doctor Strange). Choosing someone like Benedict Cumberbatch would finally get “The Batch” into a comic book movie and he’s a big enough name to carry the franchise. Joseph Fiennes would be a choice that is a bit left field, but a strong enough actor to hold the “magic mantle” for Marvel, but wouldn’t break the bank. Hugh Laurie also falls in that boat and you’d be making a large portion of the fan base happy. Simply put, you can do better Marvel. Going with Depp is a good choice, but it’s very expected and just…whelming.