It's not a great time to be a fan of racially sensitive movie news. The first image of Scarlett Johansson in the Ghost In The Shell not only solidified some controversial race-swap casting, but was accompanied with reports the studio had actually tried to make her look more Asian with CGI. And then the response to the Doctor Strange trailer moved from "It looks like Batman Begins/Inception" and "What, no British?" to "Isn't it a bit racist to change the traditionally Tibetan Ancient One to a white, British woman?"
The casting of Tilda Swinton as Stephen Strange's mentor was always going to get some cries of comic inaccuracy, although it's not the gender issue that's stirred up much of the rage (those who typically would object are still pent up about Ghostbusters), but the race side.
It's got so fierce that pretty much everyone involved with the film has made some comment about. And now Marvel's released an official statement on the matter:
"Marvel has a very strong record of diversity in its casting of films and regularly departs from stereotypes and source material to bring its MCU to life. The Ancient One is a title that is not exclusively held by any one character, but rather a moniker passed down through time, and in this particular film the embodiment is Celtic. We are very proud to have the enormously talented Tilda Swinton portray this unique and complex character alongside our richly diverse cast."
So this version of the Ancient One just happens to be of British decent. OK, I guess. Based on how Swinton's shown real skill playing androgynous characters before, I'd assumed Marvel were going for something incredibly far removed from the human plane, making the Ancient One genderless and raceless, but based on this and the trailer it's actually step in a different direction.
I get it - like The Mandarin, some elements would need to be changed - but it seems a rather odd choice. When Marvel's made major changes before - Jarvis to J.A.R.V.I.S. - it's been with a greater purpose. Here's hoping the movie provides a bit more justification.
Doctor Strange is in cinemas from 4th November.