The Motion Picture Club had the opportunity to participate in a conference call with Adam Frank, the scientific consultant for Marvel Studios’ newest blockbuster, Doctor Strange. The latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe introduces a relatively new concept to the genre in the form of magic. When a brilliant but arrogant neurosurgeon gets in a life threatening accident, he begins a journey of healing that will completely change him. But for a man of science (and a pre conditioned audience) magic can be a truly mind boggling concept that might not mesh with many of the extraordinary but grounded things that have already been seen.
When confronted with that very situation Adam admitted that was the “conundrum” but also reveals that’s exactly why he was brought in. Comparing Doctor Strange to Marvel’s other fantastical property Thor where they made it “sciency by taking these gods and making them super advanced aliens” was something he felt they couldn’t do to Doctor Strange “without doing too much damage to the character”. Using the lens of of philosophy helped Adam and the production team use a base of science to ground Doctor Strange, particularly in regards to the multiverse.
Adam confidently believes that people “go to movies for good stories” and that it depends on the type of movie people want to see to fulfill a specific desire for scientific accuracy. Using The Martian as an example of a film that needed to be stricter with it’s use of science versus the Star Trek franchise as something that is allowed to be less accurate and more imaginative, Adam finds that “what matters most in science and science fiction and fantasy too is that you have a universe builder and you give yourself a coherent and consistent set of rules and you live within that”. Adam also emphasized that good science fiction will inherently lend to new ideas and help mold the future outlook on scientific possibilities.
Thinking about a how a movie with so many different aspects and approaches, such as science and philosophy, could inspire children to follow paths in those fields brought Adam back to his own childhood where he proclaimed that he himself was “often inspired by movies and comic books” and that his introduction to science fiction at such a young age led him to eventually become an astrophysicist later in his life. Adam remarked that these movies and shows can “bring up deeper issues and go beyond being just super hero movies and that Doctor Strange has that possibility to get people to think about the nature of consciousness and the maps that we use to represent the world and where those maps might partially be incomplete.”
Asked what about Doctor Strange is the most feasible or believable within the realm of astrophysics, Adam couldn’t help but laugh and say he’s “not sure that any of them” do and that the one place that the movie truly touches on actual science is when the movie deals with the concept of the multiverse. Adam did say though that if he could have a power of his own that bends reality it would be the ability to fly and that the movie in general has a “beautiful representation of reality bending”.
Repeatedly showcased was just how much a fan of Marvel Adam is. Growing up as a huge fan Adam proclaimed that working on the film was a “life changing” experience. His excitement in being involved in the project was very apparent and his pride in Marvel’s work couldn’t be better expressed than when he declared Marvel his “hero”.