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CAUTION: This article contains major spoilers for Doctor Strange.
There’s a recurring set of complaints about the “samey-ness” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The argument comes in several forms. One common strain posits that every Marvel movie simply follows a predetermined formula, involving some McGuffin (lately, an infinity stone), an undercooked villain, and an inevitable third act action sequence that sets everything right. Another contends that the MCU films lack distinct authorial voices and break down to a house-mandated style. And one recurring grouse, even among fans, focuses on the way Marvel Studios films are shot and lit and even color-corrected.
There’s a grain of truth to each of these critiques, but as I discussed with Robbie Dorman on the Serial Fanatacist Podcast, I find them all largely unavailing. For one thing, even the studio’s first set of films, released prior to the game-changing Avengers team up (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger) have vastly different vibes and tell markedly different types of stories. From a Shakespearean-influenced high fantasy romp, to a 1940s throwback adventure, to a military-heavy fugitive narrative, to a more traditional hero’s origin story, the Marvel movies have come in different flavors from the very beginning.
What’s more, while there are common themes of redemption and certain recurring motifs common to many superhero films in the MCU, there’s also a focus on character that has served to distinguish Marvel’s films from one another independently of the antagonists or plot obstacles in a given film. As others have pointed out, Marvel Studios has found great success by focusing on the development of its heroes (and those close to them) making their personal journeys the driving force behind these films, rather than the newest set of villains or big plot development that have driven other franchises. And, over the course of fourteen movies, plenty of entries in the MCU series of films have subverted the tropes that the series’s critics accuse it of slavishly adhering to.
Doctor Strange acts as both a confirmation and a rebuke to these arguments. It features some of the MCU’s most dazzling visuals and breaks with some of the franchise’s biggest conventions. And yet, at the same time, it feels like a recapitulation of many of the same types of stories and beats that other Marvel Studios films have employed in the past.
Definition – Individuals who inherently enjoy seeing the unexpected or unplanned happen, independently of the people or groups involved in these events.
The Story– The term “Applecarters” comes from an old expression. It refers to those who enjoying seeing what happens when something “upsets the apple cart.” In other words, these are folks who like to see the unusual or unanticipated occur. They want to see the contingencies that those in charge didn’t plan for or expect would come to pass. Basically, they enjoy it when things hit the fan.
Season Six of House M.D. was assuredly a step up. The season opening mini-movie and the final two episodes alone boosted the sixth season ahead of other recent offerings. Moreover, throughout the season, the show’s producers demonstrated a willingness to play around with or even completely abandon the usual format. These departures resulted in some of the most interesting episodes in recent years, if not the series as a whole. The episode “Wilson” shined a spotlight on House’s constant companion in oncologist Dr. James Wilson, giving us an entire self-contained story from his perspective. The episode not only showed additional depth in an already well-explored personality, but proved that the Wilson character might have been able to carry a series on his own. Similarly, the episode “5 to 9” gave us a day in the life of Lisa Cuddy, from her struggles to renegotiate the hospital’s insurance contract to her frustrating run-ins with House, to the difficulty of balancing her personal and professional responsibilities. Again, this opportunity to take an in-depth look at a character whose day-to-day life the audience has only seen brief glimpses of in the pastwas a welcome change of pace. Finally, the episode “Lockdown” broke the format by forgoing a medical mystery in favor of seeing the characters separated and thrown back together in random pairs. The episode gave the audience closure to what was an otherwise abrupt departure for Dr. Cameron, and the pairings showed us some interesting new dynamics between characters we had rarely seen interacting.
At some point in our lives, we have all come up with some crazy theory about the entertainment we enjoy. It could be a hidden conspiracy to explain all the mysterious events of a series, speculation about a particular character’s secret history, or simply the thought that two seemingly unrelated shows share a common universe. Shows like “Lost” “Heroes” and “The 4400” have even encouraged this type of speculation from fans. The miracle of the internet has allowed people to share these crackpot theories with each other. Some of them are rather creative theories that would otherwise never see the light of day. In that spirit, here are four of my crazy theories about some of my favorite television shows (more…)