You may not know her by name, but if you’ve seen a Marvel movie in the last decade, you’ve likely enjoyed Victoria Alonso’s work. Argentine-born Alonso serves as head of physical production at Marvel Studios – a role to which she was promoted in 2015. She’s worked on every film in the studio’s superhero series since Iron Man, and has been executive producer on every film since 2012’s The Avengers. Pre-Marvel she worked on the visual effects for Big Fish and Kingdom of Heaven.
For the November 4 release of Doctor Strange, a movie in which every action scene features Inception-like, world-shifting effects – except on steroids and possibly hallucinogenic drugs – Alonso helped create the most visually impressive entry into the series. Her role means she’s involved during all stages of production for a studio that puts out several huge blockbusters every year. For this particular movie, that meant frequent trips to the set. “I was in London quite a lot for Doctor Strange,” she told me over the phone. “It was a very technically challenging film.”
Considering the scope of the effects and the fact that she’s so heavily involved, it’s no surprise that this movie kept her so busy. Fortunately, it seems to have paid off as the sci-fi fantasy flick has been praised for its visual effects and use of 3D. Although she stressed that the movie is a great experience in 2D, there’s definitely an extra wow factor from the 3D version.
“The visuals in this movie allow for the 3D to shine. Where other movies the 3D is just another element, perhaps, and it doesn’t help that much,” she said. “In this case I think it’s one of the things where you’re going on this journey…but then you push the 3D button it’s twice as exciting.”
The movie isn’t just effects, though. It features strong performances, as you’d expect from a cast that includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Rachel McAdams, and Tilda Swinton. We could have used more Benjamin Bratt, though. In fact, Alonso’s favorite scene from the movie has little do with effects, although the scene itself is presented as attractively as the action sequences. During a conversation where a view of New York City serves as a backdrop, Swinton’s Ancient One tells Strange what she sees in his future: possibilities.
“There’s a lot of women out there that will read this and say: if it can happen to her, it can happen to me.”
“I think for me that’s an incredible line because I think throughout the film what we kept seeing was the possibility of what to create with the story that we had and it’s a great adventure, so we’re excited about the possibilities,” she said.
The film continues Marvel’s trend of being able to connect audiences to characters and stories that they have little, or no, prior relationship with. It helps in that regard to have Alonso’s non-comic book fan voice in the room. Alonso serves as a sort of litmus test. The team’s objective is to captivate Alonso enough to make her want to stay in her seat.
“The way I look at it every time is, am I interested enough to give you two hours of my life?” she told me. “And when we’re doing these movies if I’m watching it and I become uninterested, I always say it: I’m bored. I’m bored. I’m going to get popcorn. I’m bored. I’m going to the bathroom. Guys, keep me on my feet. I’m bored. It has to be for people that don’t know all the details or the super fandom because there’s a big large group [like that].”
“I want a group that is balanced with all colors, genders, from everywhere in the world… That’s what our audiences are; that’s what we need to strive for.”
Her voice is necessary on the Marvel team in more ways than one. As a woman who’s Latina, Alonso’s position as one of the executives at the helm of a billion-dollar franchise is a rarity in Hollywood, something she hopes to see change for the better. Alonso has repeatedly spoken about the need for women’s voices in the creative process. According to The Hollywood Reporter, she spoke at a Women in Technology luncheon about not wanting to be the only woman in the room and that it’s a problem Marvel is working to resolve. She told Remezcla that it’s a topic that needs to be discussed in order to push for equality.
“I think that what’s important is the conversation,” she said. “Because there’s a lot of women out there that will read it and say: ‘If it can happen to her, it can happen to me.’”
If the first step is identifying the problem and being willing to do something about it, then Marvel and Disney are further along than the rest of Hollywood. “Have we done enough? No. Will we continue to try to? Yes. Would I try for it the same way for men if it were the other way around, if it were 2 percent men and 98 percent women? Of course,” she said.
“I think what’s important is balance. I’ve said it very clearly I don’t want a group of all women, I want a group that is balanced with all colors, genders, from everywhere in the world, because that’s what our country is, we’re a big melting pot of great people. That’s what our audiences are and that’s what I think we need to strive for.”
Doctor Strange hits theaters on November 4, 2016.