A Conversation with Scott Derrickson, Part 2

benedict-cumberbatch-on-set-of-doctor-strange-by-prishank-thapa-on-flickrContinued from yesterday.

Scott Derrickson is a director whose films include The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister, and Deliver Us From Evil. His most recent film, Marvel’s Doctor Strange, is in theaters now. I had the chance to chat with Scott for Christianity Today in the summer of 2014, when news had just broke that he was Marvel’s choice. In this conversation, he was even more generous with his time and engaging in conversation as I found him to be two years ago. Scott will direct the Film Seminar at Image’s Glen Workshop in Santa Fe this summer.

Nick Olson: You said recently that, for you, creation is motivated more by discovery than self-expression. What were the memorable discoveries in the making of Doctor Strange?

Scott Derrickson: I discovered more than I could ever put into words in a single interview. Both specific things about my personal life and my relationships and ideological things. The movie certainly took a turn into moral questions that I wasn’t anticipating. Pretty quickly, I ran into some big fundamental questions about the nature of moral structure itself.

I studied philosophy as an undergraduate student and so I’ve always been interested in moral questions. Also, I identify myself as Christian, even though that means different things to different people. But the idea of morality not being as fixed as we think it is ended up becoming more significant as we worked on the script while shooting and during post-production.

I like the fact that the movie presents certain moral conundrums for which there are no easy answers because that’s how it often goes in life, and sometimes the only answer is to choose the lesser evil or choose what seems to be the best possible choice at the best possible time, even though it goes against conventional morality or what feels like universal moral law. [Read more…]

A Conversation with Scott Derrickson, Part 1

Interviewed by Nick Olson

Scott Derrickson is a director whose films include The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister, and Deliver Us From Evil. His most recent film, Marvel’s Doctor Strange, is in theaters now. I had the chance to chat with Scott for Christianity Today in the summer of 2014, when news had just broke that he was Marvel’s choice. In this conversation, he was even more generous with his time and as engaging in conversation as I found him to be two years ago. Scott will direct the Film Seminar at Image’s Glen Workshop in Santa Fe this summer.

Nick Olson: It seems like your film makes itself strange not only on its own terms, but strange when compared to the rest of the Marvel film universe. One obvious distinction is that this film is overtly interested in immaterial reality, but I was wondering if there is more you might say about how your film is able to distinguish itself from the rest?

Scott Derrickson: Marvel knew that I was a person of faith. I’m not a philosophical materialist. I was outspoken about that when I met with them. At the same time, I have zero interest in pitting science against faith, as I believe those two things are compatible. I even brought in a scientist to see how progressive scientific ideas could open up imaginative avenues in the movie. While not at all a challenge against science, the film is certainly a challenge against scientism. [Read more…]

Wonder Woman, Flying, Part 2: Beauty and Sacrament

Continued from yesterday.

wonderwoman2In this scene from Batman’s first meeting with Wonder Woman in Trinity, you can feel the writer Matt Wagner’s personality trumping the artist; though it doesn’t really add much to the narrative, Wagner can’t help but let Bats make a crack about her costume.

Superheroines’ costumes are perpetually controversial, it seems (perhaps because few artists have done much to better protect their heroines), and I sympathize with those who critique the way women are often overly sexualized in ways men are not. I don’t agree that the antidote is more sexualized male bodies. That strikes me as the kind of capitalistic, individualistic, hedonistic thinking that led to the hypersexualization of all bodies at the magazine racks. But at the same time, I also don’t believe we need more realistic bodies or body armor in all cases.

Take Wonder Woman flying, for instance. Yes, it stretches the suspension of disbelief to breaking to put her in a strapless one-piece “armor” (and yes, it is frequently referred to as armor; if you look, you’ll see the chest-piece and waistband are, in fact, metal). Some newer series and geek blogs have tried to re-imagine her costume in more realistic terms with some success, but increased realism comes at the cost of bringing Diana closer down to earth. [Read more…]

Wonder Woman, Flying, Part 1: Transcendent Hope

wonderwoman1It’s one of my favorite images of Diana of Themyscira, a.k.a. Wonder Woman: her proud, bold body fills the page as she soars across a pink sunset, arms spread wide like a diver, her legs not straight but slightly askew as if skipping on the air.

As someone who never had much use for comics, I’m still a little surprised that I even have a favorite image of Wonder Woman, or that I prefer to call her Diana. Now she intrigues me for many reasons, but it was this image that helped me to “get” her and, indeed, to fall in love with her character.

I’ve read probably a hundred comic book titles in the six years since I really started to get into them—and I mean full-on novels running several hundred pages as well as the volumes that collect five to eight issues of a series—but I still tend to think of them as lighter fare, the medium I looked to for mental stimulation those early nights of parenthood when my newborn needed rocking, the medium I still prefer when my children, now six and three, are playing by themselves but I’m not confident I’ll be able to focus for long.

Yet for all their blatant dialogue and over-the-top action, I find that the good comics really do reach beyond entertainment status to become serious, thoughtful stories about morality, justice, and even the violence so central to many of them. And like any good story, the best comics develop these themes through the tools of their medium and not merely through a few key lines of dialogue. That’s what this image from George Pérez’s 1980s reboot of Wonder Woman does for me. [Read more…]

Watchmen and Dr. Manhattan’s Miracles

I came late to the DC Comic’s collected Watchmen, the groundbreaking graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. I backed into it really, watched the movie first with my sons. Though I tell them it’s usually best to read the book first, it seemed okay in this instance to watch the movie because it’s based on comic books. Of course the word comic is not a good description of what we get.

Watchmen is the story of a retired group of masked avengers who are being murdered one by one. The setting is an alternate United States in which Nixon remained president, won reelection, and crushed the North Vietnamese army, and is now changing the laws so that he can remain president indefinitely. Also, Nixon’s finger is itchy to nuke the Russians.

First published in the late eighties, the specter of the mutually assured destruction of the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., and basically the total nuclear annihilation of the world hangs heavy over this dark story. In that sense it is dated, but it is still a great read.   [Read more…]