Doctor Strange (2016) Review

I’m loving Marvel’s recent willingness to risk high budget movies on some of their obscure characters. Back in 2014 I’m sure nobody thought a Guardians of the Galaxy film would have worked because even among comic fans they weren’t very well known but it did work, gloriously.

Dr. Strange is another gamble for Marvel, if you’ve read any big event comics you’ll have probably came across the Sorcerer Supreme. He’s the guy everyone calls when they have a magical problem or when technology has failed them. He’s a good utility player to have in this wider Marvel Cinematic Universe.

This review will contain plot spoilers, including the after credits scene

We start out getting introduced to Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), he’s a rock star surgeon who seems to be more concerned with recognition for his skill rather than saving people. We see his lavish apartment, car, clothes and also the dismissive way he treats his fellow doctors. It’s a pretty similar format to the first Iron Man movie, We hate him but also kind of like him because he’s charming and good at his job. In keeping with that format Strange’s hubris is soon met with a horrible car accident in which he suffers severe nerve damage to his hands. Naturally this means he’ll never be able to work as a surgeon again and sends him into a dark spiral of blame and self loathing. I felt like during this part they maybe went a little too dark though. He routinely abuses his friendship with fellow doctor Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) and she kind of just takes it. Even going so far as to forgive him later in the movie without much push back. It’s annoying that Marvel continues to downplay the women in their stories. It just further alienates female fans and it made it hard for me to root for the character as a hero later on.

dst09

Idle Hands are Mephisto’s Play Things

After all of his top surgeon friends abandon him because his condition is too risky to try and fix Strange starts to look for more unorthodox methods of healing. This leads him to Kuala Lumpur looking for a place called kamar-Taj. There he meets The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and as many movie characters like him before doesn’t believe in magic or anything beyond the physical realm. The Ancient One decided to open Strange’s mind and sends his soul hurtling off the earth and out of our plane of existence. I can’t talk about this movie without mentioning that the special effects are incredible. They capture the psychedelic visuals of the 60’s comics perfectly. There are some incredibly complex actions scenes later on that are a cross between an M.C. Escher painting and that folding city scene from Inception.

From this point in the film the plot moves pretty quickly. We don’t actually see too much of Strange learning magic so it comes as quite a shock when he’s thrust into some fights and seems to hold his own. They don’t really make it clear how much time passes while he’s training. They try and explain his leap in skill away with Strange’s photographic memory, which I guess makes sense since most of the magic seems to involve memorising hand movements and incantations but it’s not very satisfying for the viewer.

doctor-strange-trailer-screencap

Before his training is totally complete our bad guy and former student of The Ancient One Kaecillius (Mads Mikkelsen) shows up ready to destroy earth’s magical barriers and let in the dark dimension. Mads does a pretty good job with what he’s given but he’s written as a totally forgettable villain. We don’t really get to see him do anything and there is barely any depth to his character. Add in that his character’s name is hard to pronounce and nobody will ever remember this guy.

straange-magic

Doctor Strange has all the potential to be a great movie but the rushed pacing really lets it down. They do set up some really cool stuff for the future including name dropping some crazy characters (like Dormammu and the Living Tribunal) and setting up that Strange will be joining Thor in his next outing with the mid credits scene. I think Doctor Strange would have worked better as a TV show, we would have had more time to get to know the magical side of the Marvel universe and we could have actually got to know the characters and learned how his powers worked. It’s also a pretty formulaic film they don’t really throw any unexpected plot points your way and you can easily predict how most scenes will play out. So not a perfect first outing for the good doctor but I’m excited for what he’ll bring to marvel movies in the future.

★★★☆☆

Advertisements

Fantastic Four Review

spoiler alert

There are spoilers in here, so proceed with caution if you care about spoilers.

 

The Fantastic Four do not have a great history when it comes to big screen adaptations.

1994
For some reason it didn’t do well

There was the 1994 adaptation that no one really remembers, though I’m not sure how anyone could forget that Thing costume. He looks like one of the Goombas from the Mario Bros movie.

Then Marvel waited eleven years and released a reboot, after all comic book movies were farting out money by this time. It was like they couldn’t fail. Yet the 2005 movie managed to do just that. It left both critics and fans pretty cold, though it must have made some money because Marvel decided a sequel was well worth the effort.

Rise of the silver Surfer was the only Fantastic Four movie I had seen, and it was… Not good to say the least, with an incoherent plot and a lot of questions about the relationships between the characters, it was pretty excruciating to watch.

2015
Look at how dark it is. Must  be really gritty and realistic.

After so many failures I was quite surprised to hear they were doing another reboot. Naturally I approached this new reboot with some trepidation, worried that it’d be full of weird costumes and quips that just aren’t funny. My caution was well deserved.

The films starts with a young Reed Williams (Miles Teller) who gets picked on for inventing a teleport at the age of 12. He recruits the help of one Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) and the become BFFs, awww.

The science teacher declare his science project unscientific (for some reason, I suspect it was supposed to be out of fear) and declares them disqualified from the science fair. Luckily Professor Storm just so happens to be there and recruits Reed to help him and his kids Sue (Kate Mara) and Johnny (Michael. B Jordan) on a project to build a ‘quantum gate’. Which is not so much a gate, but like a pod… Thing.


After them doing some sciencey type stuff Reed, Ben, Johnny and a guy called Victor Von Doom (I bet you can’t guess what happens to that guy) go into the quantum gate on a mission for science, leaving Sue Storm back at the office to look after the computers and stuff.

green planet

Stuff goes wrong on the alternative planet they find themselves on after stabing the ground and angering it. Reed, Johnny and Ben manage to get back to the gate (though not before getting a dose of radiation) and Sue gets electrocuted from her computer or something. It was hard to tell exactly what happened with her.

Unfortunately they couldn’t save Victor Von Doom from, well, his doom and he gets left behind

After spending a few months of being hooked up to various beeping machines Reed escapes and finds his friends have been turned into a talking pile of rubble (The Thing), a fireman (The Human Torch) and an invisible lady (The Invisible Woman). He feels really guilty about this, so he escapes leaving them in the hands of the government for a year.

In the last 20 mins of the film they go back into the quantum gate for some reason and find Victor still alive, though after spending a year on a radioactive planet has left him looking kinda like a big lump of coal. After dragging him back to Earth it turns out he’s a little bitter about the whole being left on a violent glowing, radioactive planet for a year and starts to destroy the world.

doom

And here you will find the best line in the film. They’re trying to reason with Victor only to be told ‘There is no Victor, only Doom’. I can’t figure out with that was an intentional reference to Ghostbusters or if they were all in the writing room feeling very pleased with themselves for coming up with such an awesome line. I like to think it’s the latter. 

Finally the heroes get together to fight the big evil and become the Fantastic Four.

OK, so the main thing that’s wrong with this film is that It takes far, far too long to get to the good stuff, which is super heroes with some awesome powers fighting a bad guy with equally awesome (but evil) powers. This though, gets all bogged down in it’s own history. As if the audience is going to be sitting there not believing what they are seeing because they don’t know every precise detail of why that guy can light himself on fire. He’s a super hero, it’s the sort of shit they do! 

I feel it would have actually worked a lot better if they had just left the origin story thing for now and just let them have an adventure with mild references to their origins. Thus setting it up for another movie and which could concentrate on just one or two of them.

mr fantastic
It’s actual cannibal Miles Teller

Miles Teller always has a bit of a gormless look on his face and somehow manages to come across as an even less charismatic Shia laBeouf, making Mr Fantastic (as he is known once he becomes stretchy) just, meh. He’s there and he’s smart, there is nothing else to say about him. The others were just as bland. Personally I found there to be little chemistry between the main four actors. With the exception of Reed and Ben they just felt like four work colleagues who didn’t really like each other. So it felt a little forced when they come together at the end to fight the sudden appearance of Doom.

The special effects are pretty awesome and they’ve really made the characters look great and realistic once they do get their powers. It just takes so long to get to that point and the characters themselves are so bland that you simply don’t care. It’s like at Christmas when you came downstairs all excited at the presents nestled under the tree with their bright wrapping, inviting wrapping paper. Only when you tear it off it’s a roll of sellotape and a pair of black socks, not even novelty ones.

The story is just all over the place and you just don’t care about anything that happens, there’s no one strong character to route for or care about. They’re all just floundering  about with nothing to do. 

Marvel clearly really love The Fantastic Four. They keep resurrecting them every few years despite it being a major stink bomb each time. Maybe they love them too much and need to take a step back and look at it objectively. Stop dragging these poor guys through the mud, Marvel!

I’ve never read the comics, but they’ve been going for years, surely there’s an interesting story in amongst the hundreds of issues for them to draw on instead of yet another origin story?

joss whedon
He even comes with his own hat

Come on Marvel, just draught in Joss Whedon again and let him have a go next time. It is not good when your movie earns five Golden Raspberries (though Worst Picture was tied with 50 Shades of Grey… Yeah, that’s right, this is 50 Shades bad!).

 

 

If you’re a really big fan of the comics there might be something in here for you to enjoy, though I would recommend giving this a miss.

★★☆☆☆

 

Captain America: Civil War Review

Not content with cracking the superhero team-up movie formula way before DC and just over a month removed from the critical flop Batman v Superman, Marvel have also shown everyone just how a hero vs hero movie should be done.

Civil War is the latest instalment in Marvel’s cinematic universe which sees the Avengers fractured due to consequences from their previous adventures. The film takes inspiration from the 2006 comic storyline of the same name but it changes a lot of stuff so it fits better into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

*This review will contain spoilers about the plot and character moments but I’ll try to keep it vague*

Despite being a named Captain America movie, Civil War is totally the next Avengers movie. Cap is technically the main character but there’s a lot of Iron Man and the gang too. We open with big chase scene where the Avengers team as we saw them at the end of Age of Ultron is trying to stop Crossbones (the douchey Hydra agent from Winter Soldier in cool skull themed body armor) from stealing a bio weapon. We get Cap, Black Widow and Falcon running through a crowded market place where there are plenty of masked goons for them to throw around.

I really love how they handle the fight choreography in this movie. Obviously Cap can’t throw guys through buildings like Superman or Hulk but if he hits a running dropkick on a guy you better believe he’s going to fly back 30 feet into a wall. Sparing use of CG also helps everything have a real impact. They’re also not afraid to do more complicated fight scenes with huge groups of people. There’s a really impressive scene like this where Cap and Bucky are escaping from an apartment and fight their way through about 100 guys down the stairwell.


Whatever a Spider Can

The rift in the team partially comes from an accident in this first scene where Crossbones set’s off a bomb blowing up part of a government building. This combined with the Avenger’s other incidents of collateral damage spur the UN to create document which would stop the Avengers deploying unless the UN deems it necessary. A side effect of this is that any heroes operating without the government say so would become criminals. Cap doesn’t want to sign and thinks they can do more good un-regulated whereas Iron Man thinks they need to play by the rules to stop more needless deaths. I love when Marvel delves into the real world consequences of superheroes. Granted, it runs the risk of getting too serious but Civil War still keeps that trademark Whedon-esque charm that they’ve had since the first Avengers movie.

So now that Cap and Iron Man are lacking some team mates they both recruit a little extra help. Cap collect some members who aren’t too bothered by being on the wrong side of the law which turns out to be Hawkeye and Ant-Man. Paul Rudd is great in this movie, his irreverent humour in the face of being totally out of his league is hilarious. Iron Man decides to one up this by recruiting the newest member to the MCU, Spider-Man! 

Going in, I was thinking he would just have a small cameo but it was much more than that. This is the debut of their much younger Spider-Man played by Tom Holland who’s most famous for playing Billy Elliot in the stage production until now. We also get to see a strangely young Aunt May which just seems wrong to me. Aunt May is supposed to be a nice old lady, not a milf!

So once the two side are evened out they’ve got to have a big fight, naturally. This is definitely one of the best fight scenes they’ve had in any Marvel movie to date. Everyone gets a moment to shine and it’s the first time we properly see Spider-Man in action. Obviously we’ve seen his web slinging and acrobatics in other movies before but they really make a point of showing off his lesser known skills like his super strength and his wisecracking. Seeing all of these Iconic heroes battle on the big screen is truly amazing and I’m so glad we finally got to see it. 

We need you Cap

When it all comes down to it though this is really a story about Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. We’ve spent the last 2 Avengers films watching them become friends but that all comes crashing down over the course of this movie. Stark does come off looking worse overall due to some questionable choices but you can definitely see both sides of the argument. There are some surprisingly emotional scenes considering this is a movie about costumed lunatics running around punching each other. It also leaves us with plenty of questions about the future Avengers movies and how they will function after all this. 

I really enjoyed this movie from start to finish, it brought back some of the perfectly timed comedy moments that I thought Age of Ultron was missing and the action scenes are easily their best to date. The only bad point I noticed was the pacing was a bit rushed at times, they had a lot to get through in their 2hr 26 min so it moves at more of a quick comic book pace. This meant they had to put in a few convenient plot moments like Bucky miraculously getting his memories back after being knocked out for a few minutes of screen time. Other than that I really can’t fault this movie, after the disappointment of Batman v Superman I was so glad Captain America: Civil War was everything I wanted it to be and more.

★★★★★