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Doctor Strange- Review

I’m not a huge fan of the original Steve Ditko comics of Doctor Strange. They’re just too… well, strange for one thing. It’s not that they’re bad or anything (although they are a hard read by modern standards), they’re just so trippy and so out there.

I am, however, a huge fan of the modern rendition of Doctor Strange, especially the new series by Jason Aaron and the incredible Chris Bachalo (who has been one of my favourite artists since he did Generation X). This film manages to stay closer to the modern day version of Strange, but it still manages to keep a lot of the trippy weirdness from the old days.

doctor-strange-city-bending-179855First off, Benedict Cumberbatch is brilliant. Not just brilliant, perfect. He is perfect as Stephen Strange, the arrogant and brilliant doctor who’s entire life falls apart after his hands are shattered in a car crash. He’s both serious, and funny (some of the humour in this film is excellent and I loved the cloak), and handles the physical action of the film well.

Chiwetal Ejofor does well in his role as Mordo too, as does Benedict Wong as… Wong. Those three characters are spot on.

Tilda Swinton is great as the Ancient One. Genuinely great, but then she’s great in everything. I know about all of the controversy that surrounded her being chosen for the role, and I agree it would have been better if they’d chosen an Asian actor to play a character who is meant to be Asian in the comic, but they didn’t, and it’s been discussed so often that it seems pointless for me to chime in. Needless to say, Tilda is brilliant, and brings a conflicted, but wise aura to the role, which it needed.

Mads Mikkelsen as the main villain is where the character stuff starts to fall apart. He’s very good at playing what is essentially a very dull villain. Marvel film (apart from Loki) have had a really hard time finding good villains, and this film continues that tradition of having a villain who is just a little underwhelming.

Speaking of underwhelming, Rachel McAdams does fine with what is essentially a bit part to put some romance into the story. It doesn’t really work, and I would have been fine if they’d either given her more to do, or just remove the whole character after the opening act. She’s more plot device than actual character for the majority of the film, and that’s a shame.

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I should point out, that despite these misgivings, I liked this film. The story is simple, yet well executed, and the action scenes well done for the most part (there are a few where it was hard to tell exactly what was happening as the camera moved about so much, but they were rare).

The action is the star of the film. There are two sequences in particular, one in a mirror realm, and one on earth that are astonishing. The later of which might well be the most creative fight scene I’ve seen in any Marvel film. They’re both beautiful to watch and mind-blowing with their insanity, and if nothing else this film has set up magic as a terrifying, incredible, beautiful thing, and I look forward to seeing more of it in future Strange films.

The ending (no spoilers) is a little underwhelming too, and frankly the whole film feels like it could have used another twenty minutes to flesh out the villain and made him less of an afterthought. Although the way the ending is done is very creative, and I enjoyed Stephen actually being shown to be smart enough to figure it out.

It’s probably not a top 5 marvel film, but it’s certainly close to it. And the two end credits sequences hint to Strange being in a lot more Marvel films, and a dark turn for a sequel that I’d love to see.

Also, the music, like all Marvel films is phenomenal and completely perfect for the film. I don’t know how Marvel studios keep getting these brilliant scores, but they really are the master of putting them together.

So, it’s two hours of incredible spectacle and great acting, but a simple if well-executed story. My main problem is the villain. Marvel’s best villains are on their TV show, and no one has come close to the complexity of Kingpin, or evil of Purple Man. At some point the films need to correct this, because Marvel have some amazing villains to pick from, and I’d like to actually see them portrayed as a threat, not someone who’s there because the good-guy has to fight someone.

Warcraft: The Beginning. A Review.

Despite the fairly negative reviews on sites such as Metacritic, I went to see Warcraft today, and I figured I’d do a quick review to give my thoughts. There might be mild spoilers, be warned.

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I guess I should start this review by explaining that I’ve never played Warcraft in any of it’s forms. I have no interest in starting now, either, and I’ve never read any of the books or comics up to this point. My entire knowledge of the Warcraft world is limited to knowing it’s a fantasy world, that there are Orcs in it, and obviously Leeroy Jenkins (google it).

On the other hand, I love fantasy movies and despite some awful trailers, this one intrigued me. I think it’s fair to say, I enjoyed the hell out of it.

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First and foremost, it’s beautiful. If you think the pictures were pretty, you haven’t seen anything until you see it all moving. Everything looks stunning, the scenery, the animation, the Orcs especially are something quite special.

Speaking of the Ocs, they’re the best thing in the film. Each of them looks brilliant, and you get genuine emotion from Toby Kebbell, who is incredible as Durotan, one of the Orc chiefs. Actually his story is probably the most interesting part of the film, and I wish there was more of it. The whole, “do I betray my people to save my people?” arc is well done here, and I found myself really enjoying Durotan’s time on screen. Also, his scenes with his wife and baby felt genuine and touching.

Special praise goes to Daniel Wu and his excellent portrayal of the evil Gul’dan. He was great every time he was on screen.

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The human side of the story is a bit more a mixed bag. On the one hand you’ve got Travis Fimmel as Sir Anduin Lothar. He’s brilliant, frankly, and basically holds up the entire human part of the film almost single-handedly. He’s a badass warrior, and manages to come across as someone you really don’t want as an enemy.

Ben Schnetzer is also excellent as Khadgar, a mage who’s incredibly out of his depth, and both he and Fimmel work well together when they’re on screen.

The action scenes were magnificent, and stunning to watch. The real high-point of the film, and they managed to look pretty vicious despite it only being a 12a in the UK.

The story as a whole is quite interesting, and the film flies along its 2hr show time, but there are some issues.

  1. The big reveal of the bad guy is a giant ‘meh’. I simply didn’t care about the character, nor his motivations, and frankly I guessed he would be the villain the second he comes on screen.
  2. Dominic Cooper isn’t in it enough to really give his character the drive it needed for people to want him to succeed. I wanted Fimmel to do it because he’s heroic, and badass, but his king just sort of arrived, said a few things and left. He needed a bigger part.
  3. Actually that’s the biggest problem I have with the film, it needed more of it. There needed to be more of the king, more of the humans you were meant to be rooting for.
  4. The romance between Lothar and Garona felt tacked on. It was obvious it was going to happen, but there was zero set up to it. One minute they were talking, the next they were deeply in love. I didn’t buy it for a second.
  5. There were no twists or shocking parts to the film. None. Everything that was meant to be a twist could have been seen a mile away, although that didn’t dampen my enjoyment of it for the most part.
  6. Fimmel’s son was a plot device and nothing more.
  7. It needed more humour. I wanted someone a Leeroy Jenkins moment, or more sarcastic one-liners. There were characters who did it occasionally, but not enough for my liking.
  8. More species. Hopefully if they get a sequel the elves and dwarves can actually do something.

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The film was obviously a labour of love for all involved, it’s just a shame that the script couldn’t quite match the lofty ambitions. Now, I really liked it, but I love fantasy films anyway, and I can certainly see why others might not feel as invested.

It’s better than Batman vs Superman and X-men apocalypse, and anyone who says it isn’t beautiful is either trolling or blind. The script needed polishing, and several of the characters needed to go away as they take screen time from characters who are actually interesting. It’s one of the few films where I’d say 2hrs isn’t enough. If they do a director’s cut and add another 30-40 minutes onto the running time, I’d be happy with that.

So, I do recommend it, but it’s not for everyone. You like fantasy, you’ll probably enjoy it. You like Warcraft, you’ll love it. And if you want big grand action packed scenes, or you want to see orcs and humans beat the shit out of each other, then this is the film for you. I really hope it gets the sequel it desperately wants, as I’m very interested in seeing what they do from here.

It’s also probably a film that the majority of reviews I’ve read have either missed the point (it’s not meant to be Lord of the Rings), or just don’t seem to like it because it’s a videogame movie. Go see it for yourself. There’s a good chance you’ll enjoy it.

 

 

 

Superman Vs Batman: Thoughts

I’ve been to watch Batman VS Superman, and wanted to write down my thoughts on the film. Considering I had no hope of making this short enough to post on FB or Twitter, I figured writing them here would be a better idea.

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First the bad:

 

  • The story is nonsensical, and jumps around all over the place for no real reason.
  • Huge chunks of story are just forgotten about, or ignored because they’re clearly just there for future films, or because Zack Snyder forgot they existed.
  • Zack Snyder isn’t a very good director.
  • Everything is gloomy and dark. The entire colour palate to the film is like watching through fog. It’s annoying and utterly misses the point of a Superman film.
  • There’s no levity in the whole film. Compare it to something like Winter Soldier, which was still a serious film, but one that had humour, and excitement. Those aren’t in this film.
  • The CGI fights look pretty crappy in the darkness that blankets the whole film.
  • Lex Luthor is more annoying, twitchy dick, than evil genius. Also, his entire plot makes no sense for someone who’s meant to be said evil genius.
  • Every character in the Daily Planet is pointless and serves no purpose.
  • It’s too long.
  • It’s obviously just a set up for a future film.
  • Amy Adams is just there to be saved for the most part.
  • In 2016 we don’t need yet another Batman origin story. EVERYONE KNOWS WHO BATMAN IS, and if you don’t, then spend ten seconds on Google before you get into the film.
  • The ending is obvious, trite, and frankly insulting to the audiences’ intelligence.
  • Doomsday is dreadful and looks like the Troll from Lord of the Rings, a 15 yr old film.

 

 

Essentially, the story is all over the place, and the direction is a mess. So, that’s not great.

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Now the good stuff:

 

  • Henry Cavill is a good Superman. He really is, even with all the moping he has to do, he’s still pretty good. If they just made him a bit more… Superman, and a bit less miserable, that would be brilliant.
  • Gal Gadot is a very good Wonder Woman. She doesn’t have a lot to work with, but what she does shines. I have high hopes for a WW film based on her work here.
  • BEN AFFLECK SAVES THIS FILM. He’s phenomenal as Batman and Bruce Wayne, managing to play a Batman who has been pushed far beyond breaking that he’s now willing to do some pretty messed up stuff in the name of what he believes. He’s brilliant and every second he’s on screen, he steals the film. I now want to see an Affleck solo Batman film.
  • The Batman action scenes. They’re brilliant.
  • Jeremy Irons.
  • Holly Hunter
  • That’s pretty much it.

 

Without Affleck, this would be a colossal mess of a film with few redeeming qualities. As it is, he drags it kicking and screaming up to a film I didn’t mind watching.

 

Just one thing. Stop letting Zack direct Superman. It’s clear he doesn’t get Superman, it’s clear he just wants slow-mo and explosions. Give the next Superman film to someone who understands the character and let them go nuts.

 

Also, DC seems determined to do grim and gritty with these characters, and it just doesn’t work. They’re so far behind the Marvel films in terms of fun characters, action and story, it isn’t even a competition. Compare this to something like Winter Soldier, the Avengers, or Iron Man, and it’s not even in the same league. It’s a real shame because they had the chance to knock it out of the park, and they barely managed to hit the ball at all.

 

I hope the Blu-ray extended version fixes some of the problems with the story, but I doubt they’d fix it to the extent it needs fixing. Essentially, it’s a pretty poor film, but with one incredible performance, which is certainly not what I would have said about an Affleck superhero film. It’s not awful, but a bad story and bad direction mask the goodness inside. Glad I saw it, but it’s not even in the top ten superhero films of the last five years, let alone of all time.